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Miller Solid, Surgery for Briere

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller continued to make a statement on Friday night. For the third time in four games since returning from injury, Miller turned away more than 30 shots and allowed just one goal as he led the Sabres to a 4-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday night.

"He saw everything and was totally under control," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "He made big saves when we needed big saves."

In total, the Sabres rookie netminder stopped 35 of Atlanta's 36 shots and held the opposition scoreless through 54 minutes of play.

Following the game, Miller attempted to deflect the credit of his performance off himself and onto the Sabres defensive core.

"I just wanted to be patient, sit back and watch for their prime shooters," said Miller, who is now 4-0 since December 19. "It was something that the defense allowed me to do. They blocked a lot of Atlanta's good scoring chances and pushed them to the perimeter."

Another slow first period – in which the team managed just three shots on goal – hampered Buffalo for the second consecutive game. Unlike in Toronto where the Sabres fell behind 2-0 to the Maple Leafs in the opening period, Miller held the Thrashers at bay, stopping eight shots.

"Early on in the first period, he made some really big saves," said Ruff. "He built momentum and he gave our team momentum. He made the saves that picked the bench up and that was a big part of tonight's game."

Coming into the contest, Atlanta's 55 power-play goals were tops in the league, but the high-octane unit failed to beat Buffalo's penalty kill on eight opportunities, even with forward Ilya Kovalchuk playing the full two minutes in most man-advantage situations.

"It just shows how good our penalty kill can be," said Miller. "We are a hard working group of guys and everyone gets into shooting lanes. That's a big part of shutting down Kovalchuk."

"It helps a lot," said center Derek Roy of Miller's presence in net. "It gives a lot of confidence in the players and team."

Sabres co-captain Chris Drury led the team with a goal and an assist, while Thomas Vanek, Maxim Afinogenov and Mike Grier added individual markers. Drury's pair of points now gives him six - three goals and three assists - in the last four games.

"In all areas, kudos to the guys in the room," said Ruff. "They put the work in and they got the results."

The only bad news following the victory came on the injury front. After being examined by a specialist in Toronto Friday afternoon, it was determined that Daniel Briere's abdominal injury is in fact a sports hernia.

"Danny had what is called a dynamic ultrasound and they found a small tear," said Ruff. "It looks like now he will be scheduled for surgery early next week."

Although not as severe as JP Dumont's sports hernia, Briere will be out of action for roughly the same timeframe, approximately eight weeks. With that window, the Sabres co-captain could return around the first two weeks of March.

Just 51 seconds into the second period, Drury caught Atlanta netminder Kari Lehtonen cheating and made the rookie pay. With the puck along the goal line on the power play, Drury caught the goalie leaning to protect low and roofed a shot that skipped off Lehtonen's shoulder into the net to give Buffalo the lead.

Vanek increased Buffalo's lead to two after taking the puck on a coast-to-coast run with a great individual effort. Receiving a pass from Ales Kotalik in Buffalo's zone, the rookie winger stickhandled up ice and was met by Atlanta defenseman Greg de Vries upon entering the Thrashers zone.

Vanek cut wide around the left wing and flipped the puck over de Vries' stick to himself before snapping a wristshot that again deflected off Lehtonen into the net.

Afinogenov made the score 3-0 after cutting around Atlanta defenseman Niclas Havelid to the slot and snapping a wristshot that beat Lehtonen low on his stick side.

Marc Savard ruined Miller's shutout bid with a spinning goal from the slot at 13:54 of the third.

De Vries was again abused as Grier faked out the defenseman and backhanded the puck over Lehtonen, whose feet were swept out by Atlanta wing Vyacheslav Kozlov sliding across the crease, to put Buffalo up 4-1.
Scoresheet | Super Stats | Faceoff Comp | Play By Play | Shift Chart

Period 1
No Scoring

Period 2
1-0 (0:51): Chris Drury roofs a wristshot that hits Kari Lehtonen's shoulder and skips into the net for the power-play goal. Drury was stationed just above the goal and caught Lehtonen commiting early. The goal is Drury's seventh on the man advantage and 14th of the season. Tim Connolly and Brian Campbell get the helpers.

2-0 (11:31): On a great individual effort, Thomas Vanek takes the puck coast-to-coast and flips for wristshot that hit Lehtonen's shoulder and once again skipped into the net for a power-play goal. Vanek was met entering Atlanta's zone by Greg de Vries, but the rookie flipped the puck over the defenseman's stick to himself and rushed the net. The marker is Vanek's 11th of the season. Ales Kotalik and Derek Roy get the helpers.

Period 3
3-0 (13:25): On a two-on-one, Maxim Afinogenov cuts around Atlanta defenseman Niclas Havelid into the slot and snaps a wristshot that beats Lehtonen low on his stick side. The goal is Afinogenov's ninth of the season. Derek Roy and Teppo Numminen record the assists.

3-1 (13:54): Marc Savard receives a pass from Ilya Kovalchuk in the slot, spins and fires a shot on net the beats Ryan Miller low on his glove side. The shorthanded goal was Savard's 17th of the season. Greg de Vries gets the secondary helper.

4-1 (14:53): Mike Grier skates down the left wing, cuts around Greg de Vries and snaps a backhander over Lehtonen, who was wiped out by Atlanta wing Vyacheslav Kozlov. The goal is Grier's fifth of the season. Chris Drury and Toni Lydman record the assists.
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