Best wishes to RJ

Ryan Miller wore his new Olympic mask Monday morning. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres goalie Ryan Miller wanted Team USA Olympic mask to resemble old one

Bill Hoppe     Olean Times Herald
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BUFFALO – If Ryan Miller’s new Team USA Olympic mask for the upcoming Sochi Games looks familiar, it’s because the Sabres goalie kept the same theme he used in 2010.

“I thought it was a cool mask last time,” Miller told the Times Herald on Sunday. “I just want to update the colors. I want to do something more traditional red, white and blue. Last time it was like a little off blue-gray kind of thing. Just changed it up a little here and there, just kind of like my mask in Buffalo.”

Miller still has the muscular, torch-bearing Uncle Sam painted on one side and an eagle on the other. Shamrocks adorn both sides again, a nod to Jim Craig, the U.S. goaltender for the 1980 Miracle on Ice team.

A USA Hockey shield has replaced the Olympic rings and logo on the chin. The back plate has Miller, his wife, actress Noureen Dewulf, and their dog depicted as Russian nesting dolls.

Miller had “Miller Time” and “Matt Man,” a tribute to his cousin, on the back last time. The International Olympic Committee made him cover them up, however.

“You can’t have any political statements, tributes, photographic likenesses,” Miller said. “So everything has to be artistic representation or something. So nothing commercial. Basically, if they can’t make money off of it, you can’t.”

Miller’s new mask has already been approved.

He said it probably took his designer, Ray Bishop, a couple of weeks to get the mask in order. The two sent sketches back and forth.

“When I went to camp (in August), I didn’t know if I was going to make the team,” Miller said. “I just told him a heads up, if I’m going to make the team, I want to keep it probably the same as last time.”

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In Ville Leino’s defense, Ted Nolan said, the Sabres winger “has played in spurts, hit a couple goalposts.”

“He’s just missing here and just missing there,” the interim coach said Monday prior to the Sabres’ 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. “When those things just keep missing, you look at the overall picture that he’s not playing well at all. But, truth is, he has played in spurts. It just didn’t click in.”

Leino has zero goals in 37 games. So the Finn sat as a healthy scratch Monday for the third time this season. He was a minus-2 in Saturday’s 7-1 drubbing in Colorado.

“It’s just makes some changes,” said Nolan, who has repeatedly questioned Leino’s compete level. “Things didn’t go too well last game. When that happens, change is imminent.”

Meanwhile, winger Drew Stafford returned from a four-game absence after re-aggravating his upper-body injury.

“Drew, he comes back, and, boom, pucks go in for him,” Nolan said about Stafford, who scored three times after returning last month and early Monday. “If that happens with Ville one day, you never know what you have.”

Winger Linus Omark, a former Oiler, played on the top line beside Stafford and center Tyler Ennis. Omark had sat three straight games.

“After last game, desperate times make desperate decisions,” Nolan said. “We’ll see what transpires.”

Center Zenon Konopka was scratched. To make room for Stafford, the Sabres placed Matt Moulson (upper body) on injured reserve.

Rookie defenseman Chad Ruhwedel was scratched for veteran Alexander Sulzer.

Why sit Ruhwedel, who appeared to be playing well?

“As I mentioned to Chad this morning, don’t read into any of it,” Nolan said. “As I mention to players, you just worry about your own play. … It has nothing to do with his lack of play. He’s played pretty well. There’s other things behind it.”

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The Sabres honored former Bills wide receiver Andre Reed, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, with a video tribute.

Related: Sabres’ Ville Leino struggling to score, reach Ted Nolan’s expectations

Sabres goalie Ryan Miller knew he had to earn spot on Team USA’s Olympic squad

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