Buffalo’s Ryan Miller ready for the Olympics

Jonathan Quick might be the favorite to start for Team USA, but the reigning Olympic MVP has been getting stronger mentally in Buffalo this season and would love a chance to step up again.

BUFFALO, NY – Though prevailing wisdom has Los Angeles Kings star Jonathan Quick as the No. 1 goaltender for Team USA at the Olympics, the MVP of the last Games is still excited to be bringing his pads and mask to Sochi.

“My mom and my sister are watching my dog and my wife and dad are coming with me,” said Buffalo’s Ryan Miller. “The rest of the world is going to be shut off for awhile.”

Which is a nice respite for the Michigan native. His Sabres are the worst team in the NHL, a rebuilding project that likely won’t include him in the future, as Miller becomes a free agent this summer and is one of the hottest names on the trade market. But with little offensive support and a work-in-progress defense in front of him, the 2010 Vezina Trophy winner still posted a .923 save percentage heading into the Olympic break, putting him 12th in the NHL.

Instead of getting down about the Sabres’ overall record and the fact he might be leaving the only NHL franchise he’s ever known, Miller has refocused himself mentally.

“I’ve tried to approach this as a new beginning,” he said. “I don’t know how many self-help books you’ve read in your life, but as your life goes on, you simplify. You start to appreciate things on a more simplistic scale and for me, I’ve actually started to find more enjoyment out of making a difference stopping pucks. If it was a breakaway, or 2-on-1, or point blank opportunity, I’ve started to remember: that was a lot of fun when I was younger, making the big save. That’s why I like being a goalie. If we were going to make a few mistakes over the course of the night, it was an opportunity where I could make a difference and that became the challenge. It’s a great reminder: That’s what you have to do anyway.”

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The Sabres have certainly had their ups and downs during Miller’s tenure in Buffalo, which now stretches past a decade. They’ve won the Presidents’ Trophy and made two conference finals, but also missed the post-season entirely in half his years. So while Miller remembers the good times, he is also learning from the past and putting a positive spin on the bad ones.

“You get on these teams here where the guys score and limit the other team to 20-25 shots,” he said. “You start to expect them to take away every opportunity and you get disappointed when they’re not a juggernaut of a team. But you have to remember: It’s hockey, it’s fun to make a difference.”

And Miller would love nothing more than to make a difference in Sochi if he gets the chance. The Americans wouldn’t have their most recent silver medal without him, that’s for sure.

For more on Miller and the Sabres at the trade deadline, look for the newest issue of THN, hitting newsstands this week.