BUFFALO, N.Y. – Veteran goalie Patrick Lalime was signed as an insurance policy that Buffalo now hopes will pay off.
With Ryan Miller out indefinitely because of a mild high ankle sprain, the Sabres will turn to Lalime for their late-season playoff push.
“I’ve felt good in practice, so I just want to carry it out into the games,” Lalime said on Monday. “We’ll take it one little step at a time, then build on it.”
Lalime, who has played in more than 400 games and won close to 200 of them, was brought in over the summer just in case Miller was forced to miss any time.
He has played sparingly this season, compiling a 2-7-1 mark with a 3.17 GAA in just 11 games. His last appearance was on Feb. 2 in a 3-2 loss in Anaheim, the same team he will face Tuesday in his first start as the new No. 1 goaltender.
“I think he’s going to get into a rhythm,” Miller said. “He’s proven in the past that he’s a big-time performer.”
Miller, meanwhile, was in a walking boot to help immobilize his injured left ankle on Monday. He acknowledged that some of the swelling has gone down, but it’s still a little achy.
“There’s no timetable,” he said. “We just have to see how it starts reacting.”
Miller was hurt in Saturday’s win over New York when Rangers forward Scott Gomez upended him behind the Buffalo net early in the third period. After the game, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff accused Gomez of deliberately crashing into Miller, but on Monday said he didn’t think Gomez purposely tried to hurt the goalie.
“There was no intent to injure Ryan on the play,” Ruff said. “The injury was a result of the play, (but) I’m mad about the play. I think Gomez’s intent was to make sure that Ryan wasn’t able to scramble back to the net.”
To replace Miller on the roster, the Sabres recalled goalie Jhonas Enroth from Portland of the American Hockey League. Enroth was Buffalo’s second-round pick in 2006.
The Sabres did receive some good news Monday as leading goal-scorer Thomas Vanek skated for the first time since breaking his jaw against Ottawa on Feb. 7. Vanek, who had his jaw wired shut after surgery to repair the complex fracture, was wearing a full protective face mask.
“I thought he did pretty good,” Ruff said. “I was surprised at how well he moved.”
Vanek, who has 32 goals, is still not expected to return for at least another two weeks.