Miller a difference maker for Sabres

Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller celebrates a win over  the Philadelphia Flyers after the third...

Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller celebrates a win over the Philadelphia Flyers after the third period of Game 1 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final hockey game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, April 14, 2011. (REUTERS/Tim Shaffer)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

BUFFALO - It is fair to say that an ordinary Ryan Miller performance would be extraordinary for the vast majority of NHL teams.

But surrendering eight goals in the past two games is not the expected yield from the all-star Buffalo Sabres netminder.

Heading into Wednesday’s Game 4 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final, the team sure could use Miller to step up and win a game and even the series at 2-2.

In other words, it is Miller time once again.

“He’s a difference maker for us,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said of Miller following the team’s optional game day skate here at the HSBC Arena. “He’s going to have to make a difference for us.

“We are going to ask him to makes some big saves for us.”

To be clear, Ruff wasn’t saying his go-to guy hasn’t been making the saves in this series as he showed in Game 1. Left unsaid though, is that with his offensive stars struggling, the Sabres coach knows his goaltender may have to steal a game to jump start the team.

The Flyers had far more chances than Buffalo in Game 2, particularly in the third period. And when Philadelphia gets a lead of any size, they immediately become that much more difficult to score against.

Through three games, Miller has a 2.70 goals against average and .915 save percentage. At the other end, the Flyers’ Brian Boucher has a nifty 1.69 GAA and .948 save percentage through the 107 minutes he has been in the Philly net.

“I think he’s been really good,” Sabres forward Jason Pominville said of Miller. “Miscues on our part gave them a tap-in back door play and one that goes in off a stick. All he had was a couple of bad breaks. Given the opportunities we’ve given up, he’s come up big for us.

“He’s such an elite goaltender in the league that expectations around him are always going to be high. For what I’m concerned, I think he’s lived up to those expectations so far.”

QUICK HITS

Though the Flyers have a playoff tested roster, Ruff thinks the Sabres late-season rush helps to negate that edge. “We’ve been behind the eight ball earlier in the year,” Ruff said. “We came from a long way back to get into the playoffs.” … This is the ninth playoff meeting between the two teams with the Flyers holding a 5-3 edge. None of the previous eight series have gone the seven-game distance ... In their eight previous playoff meetings with the Sabres, the Flyers have not lost a series in which they led the series at any point ... In each of the past three seasons, the Flyers have won a series in which they lost the first game ... Wonder about the Flyers’ netminding issues: The team did not record a shutout this season, something that has happened only twice previously in franchise history and not since 1988-89.

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos