BUFFALO – Ryan Miller’s decision to sign with the Anaheim Ducks centered, in part, on his desire to be closer to his family.
The former Sabres goalie and his wife, Noureen DeWulf, an actress, have lived in the Los Angeles area with their 3-year-old son, Bodhi, for years. Naturally, coming home has eased some of the pressures that accompany the hectic NHL life.
Still, the Ducks often go on long road trips. They finished a five-game swing Tuesday with Miller in goal, just his second appearance as a visitor at KeyBank Center.
When the Ducks leave town, Bodhi, of course, misses his father.
“You certainly realize how much kids need their parents when you’re on the road like this,” Miller said Tuesday prior to the Ducks’ 4-3 overtime win. “The last two or three days he’s been mad at me. So FaceTime hasn’t been going so well. There’s been a lot of poor connections. ‘Poor connection, dad.’ Off.”
Yes, Bodhi really gets so angry he hangs up on his father.
“We’re gone a lot,” Miller said. “We were gone most of December and gone most of this month. These are times you miss out with time with your young son, wife. Those are still tough times, but it’s made it a little bit easier because our life in California.”
Following three seasons with Vancouver, Miller signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Ducks. The 15-year veteran, who was traded to St. Louis in 2013-14, only played here once with the Canucks, a 3-2 loss Nov. 7, 2015.
“It certainly was a little bit overwhelming at the time,” Miller said. “This time around, try to have a little bit more fun with it. I definitely tried to have fun last time, but it was a little bit more emotional.”
Tuesday was Miller’s fourth straight start. The former Vezina Trophy winner made 33 saves in Monday’s 7-4 loss in Toronto.
With back-to-back games, Miller, 37, the face of the Sabres for much of his 12-year tenure, couldn’t do much in town.
“I looked at the schedule and saw we were playing back-to-back and knew it would kind of be tough to catch up with some people,” Miller said.
At an advance age, Miller has tended some solid goal at times as John Gibson’s backup much of the season. He began Tuesday 6-4-5 with a 2.67 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage in 18 appearances.
How long would Miller like to keep playing?
“Most of the people I talk to who are retired say, ‘Make them kick you out,’” he said.
At this point, 53 games into a lost season, why not keep playing defenseman Victor Antipin? Plenty of Sabres won’t be back next year. Why not use the final 29 contests to evaluate the Russian rookie? He might have a future here.
Like any newcomer, Antipin, a KHL All-Star last season, has struggled. Still, he has showcased glimpses of becoming the slick puck-mover the Sabres envisioned when they signed him to a one-year contract last year.
During the team’s recent 3-0 road trip, Antipin, who was scratched Tuesday, stood out, playing perhaps his best NHL games.
“I really liked the games he played up in Edmonton and Vancouver,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said. “He was take-charge, he was very noticeable, and then I think he got away from that.
“For him to stay in the lineup, that’s what we’re looking for. I thought he was really taking charge with the puck in our own end, very comfortable with it, making that first pass, creating his own space.”
Housley dressed 6-foot-5 defenseman Justin Falk instead of Antipin against the Ducks, a heavy team.
“It’s just a matter of where we are,” Housley said. “We make changes because we haven’t won. I liked Justin Falk’s game before he sat out. I thought he brought a physical element.”
He added: “When you lose some games, changes are going to be made. It’s not that (Antipin has) played horribly.”
Antipin, 25, has compiled five assists and a minus-2 rating in 29 games this season.