January 28, 2009
This rivalry is old schoolCammalleri, Miller were college foes
By STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA
Michael Cammalleri has plenty of tips for his Calgary Flames teammates.
He's just not entirely sure any of them will work.
Facing a familiar old foe in Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller tonight at the Saddledome, Cammalleri is hopeful some of the moves he used to score on his former NCAA rival will translate to the NHL stage.
You'll have to watch the game to see if they work. He's not about to disclose Miller's potential weak spots before the game.
"Not ones that I'm gonna put in the newspaper. I'm gonna keep my tips to myself -- hopefully they still work," said Cammalleri, who faced Miller often over three years of college when the Flames forward was a member of the Michigan Wolverines and the Buffalo Sabres backstop was a rock for the hated Michigan State Spartans.
"We got to know each other pretty well. We developed one of those respectful rivalries where you don't know each other on a personal level -- you see each other at all-star games and things like that.
"I had a lot of respect for his game, and I think he showed me some."
Streaking into tonight's first game back from the all-star break with at least a point in each of his last six contests, Cammalleri knows what he's up against if he wants to keep things rolling.
Miller, a 6-foot-2, 166-lb. string bean, uses height and athleticism to keep the Sabres in games they have no business winning.
Cammalleri has seen Miller twice in the NHL. The first meeting back in 2005-06 was a disaster for his Los Angeles Kings, as Cammalleri and Co. fell 10-1 despite firing 33 shots at Miller.
Getting a little revenge last season with an 8-2 win over the Sabres in their next meeting, Cammalleri's Kings couldn't boast much after jumping to a 4-0 first-period lead against backup Jocelyn Thibault before plugging another four past Miller.
Cammalleri scored against Thibeault, but his grand total in two games against Miller in the big league is a pair of assists.
He had a little more success in the AHL all-star game during the lockout, where Cammalleri capped off a deadly move -- putting the puck through his legs, off his skate, and back onto his stick for a deke -- with a goal in front of his home crowd in Manchester.
And, of course, he scored his fair share against Miller in the NCAA.
"I would say it's gone pretty even. He's made a lot of great saves on me and I was able to get a couple by him," said Cammalleri, who scored twice and added an assist during the memorable outdoor game at Spartan Stadium dubbed the 'Cold War.'
"But that was all we were able to get as a team. That was all he was giving up. He was pretty stingy."
It was days like that which made Cammalleri a believer in Miller's eventual leap to the pro ranks.
"I didn't think there was a doubt. Not only that, I thought he'd be a top goalie at this level. He was definitely an exceptional, exceptional goalie when I played against him," Cammalleri said.
"He was a great goalie in college -- and I'm a guy who doesn't like to give goalies much kudos."
Drafted by the Sabres in the fifth round, 138th overall in 1999, Miller developed with the Spartans and won the Hobey Baker award in 2001 as the best college player in the nation.
Spending time in both the AHL and NHL in his first couple of years as a pro, Miller took over the top job in Buffalo after the lockout. He's proven he deserves to be the No. 1 guy.
"He's having a good career, and I think probably the sky's the limit with his talents," said Cammalleri.