BUFFALO, N.Y. – Sabres goalie Ryan Miller believes there’s a good chance he’ll be back in action by the end of the week, in time to help Buffalo make its final playoff push.
Miller provided the upbeat prognosis after getting in a light half-hour workout after practice Monday. It was the starter’s first time back on the ice since taking a hard shot off his collarbone in a 4-3 loss at Toronto on March 29.
“Today was a good step forward,” Miller said. “I really believe it shouldn’t be something that’s going to linger too long, and it’s something I can get back to playing shortly.”
Last year’s Vezina Trophy winner has missed three games and has already been ruled out from playing Tuesday, when the Sabres play host to Tampa Bay. Barring setbacks, there’s a distinct possibility he’ll return by the weekend, when the Sabres close the regular season at home against Philadelphia on Friday, and at Columbus the following day.
Following a 2-1 overtime win at Carolina on Sunday, Buffalo (40-29-10) enters the final week in seventh place, three points ahead of the ninth-place Hurricanes (38-30-11).
Jhonas Enroth will start against the Lightning after going 2-0-1, including a shutout, in filling in for Miller. In allowing six goals during that stretch, Enroth was named the NHL’s third star of the week on Monday.
Miller didn’t face any shots during his workout. He focused strictly on positioning and lateral movement drills, and spent time stretching his neck. Without discussing the specific nature of his injury, Miller acknowledged he was dealing with stiffness in his upper body.
Miller is prepared for his practice workload to increase, starting Tuesday.
“The rest and the break got me closer,” Miller said. “With a little bit more practice time, I really feel like I’ll be there.”
Miller praised Enroth for how capably he’s filled in.
“I got a big kick out of it. We need everybody contributing,” Miller said. “He’s kept himself really calm and within his game.”
Watching the Sabres play two weekend road games—including a 5-4 overtime loss at Washington on Saturday—on TV, though, wasn’t easy.
“I had to have a little stress ball in my hand,” Miller said. “I was squeezing it and sweating, and you don’t even want to know what I was saying about the referees.”
Coach Lindy Ruff said there’s no doubt that Miller remains his No. 1 goalie, though he’s impressed with how Enroth has performed.
“I had a lot of confidence in him,” said Ruff, of the backup who is 7-2-2 with Buffalo since opening the season in the minors. “He’s got a great mentality. There’s nothing that bothers him. He’s one of those real low-key goaltenders that keeps everything under control.”
That includes Enroth making a pad save against the Hurricanes shortly after flipping off his mask because a strap had broken.
“I think that’s the part that puts a smile on your face with that kid in goal,” Ruff said.
Enroth learned of his NHL honour shortly after practice.
“It’s a big boost for me to prove myself that I can play pretty good at this level,” Enroth said.
Notes: D Jordan Leopold was scheduled to have his broken right thumb evaluated for a second time on Monday. … RW Patrick Kaleta (bruised knee) has a chance to return by this weekend after missing 14 games. … RW Michael Grier is progressing slowly from a knee injury that has sidelined him for four games.