Ryan Miller has played 499 games with the Sabres. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Miller excited to reach milestone, not angry at Sabres fans

BUFFALO – On the eve of what could be his 500th and final appearance with the Sabres, goalie Ryan Miller wanted to make something clear.

“I’m not mad at the fans,” Miller said this morning after preparing for Friday’s season finale inside the First Niagara Center. “It’s what I don’t understand. It’s the heat of the moment. You get emotional.”

Miller was referring to Friday’s 8-4 home loss to the New York Rangers, a game he sarcastically saluted the crowd in between two Bronx cheers. He then voiced his displeasure after the game.

It got ugly before Miller was mercifully yanked. It felt like he might never play another game for the Sabres.

Miller said he simply lost his emotions.

“Some people were giving me some grief,” he said, “and I just picked my hand up, like, ‘OK, I hear you.’ It wasn’t a, ‘Screw you.’ It wasn’t a, ‘I hate you guys.’ It was, ‘You know what? I hear you. All right, enough. I get it. Just let me try to do what I got to do.’ It was just a tough game.”

But Miller bounced back nicely Tuesday in Pittsburgh, stopping 40 shots in a 4-2 win over the mighty Penguins.

“That game worked out,” he said. “That’s how hockey is. It’s been disappointing for this room, this organization. I don’t think anybody takes it harder than I do. So I don’t think anybody should be able to question me or say I’m mad at the fans or I don’t respect or enjoy the fans here, and I’ve done more than my fair share to go out and prove that I’m part of this community and give back as much as I can.”

Miller said his milestone “means a lot.”

“I care a lot about being part of this community and a Buffalo Sabre,” he said. “It’s been frustrating not to kind of come through in times when we felt like we had a great group of guys and pushed a little bit further. But I’ve enjoyed my time here so far. I don’t know which way it’s going to go.”

In other news, interim Sabres coach Ron Rolston said winger Ville Leino, out the last 12 games, suffered a lung injury.

“He had some issues with his lung, yes, he’s dealing with,” Rolston said. “He’s better. He’s doing well.”

Rolston said the lung isn’t collapsed.

“It was a serious injury,” he said. “But it wasn’t anything that was major.”

Rolston, who took over Feb. 20, also said he hasn’t had any conversations with higher-ups about returning yet.

Also, Rolston said he isn’t sure if 18-year-old rookie Mikhail Grigorenko will be assigned to Rochester this weekend.

Related: Miller’s long Sabres career could be over after Friday’s ugly exit

Shellacking from Rangers eliminates Sabres from playoff contention

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