will return to the lineup Friday night in time to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at HSBC Arena. But after missing the last 13 games with a high-ankle sprain, he wanted to make one thing clear to the media before he plays; he’s no savior.
“I’m a goalie,” Miller said. “I go out and try to stop the puck. If I can help make a difference, I want to do that. But by no means [am I] a guarantee, by no means [am I] a savior.
“I can go out and give an honest effort and get in the way… but I think everyone needs to draw something from themselves this time of year.”
Miller returns with the team currently sitting in 10th place in the Eastern Conference; three points behind the ninth-place Florida Panthers and five points behind Montreal for the final seed in the playoffs. There are nine games remaining in the regular season for Buffalo.
“I want to get back into the games, I want to get back into the battle… we have a great shot to make a run,” Miller said. “Hopefully we gained some confidence last night [in a 5-3 win against Florida].”
Miller said he still feels discomfort in the ankle and there is some lingering stiffness in certain positions while in net, but added that there weren’t “any real weaknesses associated with it.”
“This is as good as it’s going to get,” he said.
While Head Coach Lindy Ruff admitted that gaining the No. 1 goaltender provides an emotional lift for the team, he warned that it may take some time for Miller to adjust after missing more than a month.
“He’s had some good practices, but playing in game situations and game-intensity, you put him in and wonder where that’s going to fall,” he said.
Ruff added that, to combat it, he expects his team to play even harder in front of the netminder and allow him time to get back into a rhythm.
“I’m very realistic about it,” Miller said. “I’ve come off injury before, I know what to expect.
“I’ve tried to stay active and be around the meetings and watch video and do what I can do to contribute… hopefully it sets a good example and shows guys that I’m hungry and want to be playing even though I can’t be.”
The time he spent away from the ice renewed his enthusiasm.
“They should all feel good that they are on the ice. They should respect the fact that they have the chance to play,” Miller said of his teammates. “You’re out for any length of time, whether you miss a game, coach puts you in the stands, or turns to another player… it should sting. It should feel terrible and you should want to be back out there.
“For me, I wanted to show that I wasn’t going to just coast. I wanted to do everything I could do. Now I’ve reached the point where I don’t think the ankle is going to get any worse… I’m ready to go out and try to compete.”
Ruff said Patrick Lalime will serve as the back-up goaltender for Friday’s game, although he has yet to make any long-term decisions with three healthy goaltenders.
The lines at Thursday’s practice were as follows:
Clarke MacArthur – Tim Connolly – Jason PominvilleJochen Hecht
– Derek Roy
– Maxim AfinogenovThomas Vanek
– Dominic Moore – Daniel Paille
Adam Mair- Paul Gaustad – Patrick KaletaDrew Stafford
– Matt Ellis
– Andrew Peters
QUOTABLE: Lindy Ruff on Drew Stafford
“The message today was, he’s going to start on a different line…We’re in a situation right now where we’ve got to go with what seems to be going best. That can go from game-to-game, that can go to from period-to-period now. We’re in the ultimate desperation mode and we can’t have a guy not play well for a certain extent, sometimes it can’t be a period. We need him, but we need him playing a lot better than he’s playing now.”
Dominic Moore will face his former team in the Maple Leafs tomorrow night for the first time since being dealt to Buffalo at the 2009 NHL Trade Deadline in March.
Moore’s next point will mark a milestone as he currently has 99 career NHL points (35+64).
Craig Rivet will reach a milestone in Friday’s contest, playing in his 800th career NHL game. The defenseman has registered 214 points (47+167) and 1,027 penalty minutes in the League.