For Ryan Miller, tonight’s game in Vancouver will be a special experience. The Canucks’ starting goalie hasn’t played against Buffalo since the Sabres traded the franchise cornerstone 11 months ago.
“I mean, it’s going to be a little bit strange,” Miller told reporters Thursday in Vancouver. “I’ll pay special attention not to pass the puck toward the Buffalo symbol. It’s going to be nice to see some of the faces that were there, but part of hockey is having fun competing against your friends, former teammates, colleagues.”
The Sabres traded Miller, the face of the franchise for years, to St. Louis on Feb. 28. The Sabres faced the Blues later last season, but Miller didn’t play.
The 2009-10 Vezina Trophy winner signed a three-year, $18 million deal with Vancouver on July 1. He believes playing the Sabres will be like facing his brother Drew, a Detroit Red Wings forward.
“I’m looking forward to these opportunities, just like I get a chance to play against my brother, I get a chance to play against a team, an organization that does mean a lot to me,” Miller said. “I want to be heard and play well and get a win. That’s the best way to do your business.”
Miller has strong numbers – 23-11-1, 2.33 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and five shutouts – in 35 games. The American had zero shutouts in his final 87 games with the Sabres.
The 34-year-old feels for the Sabres, the NHL’s worst team. He experienced five months of last season’s wretchedness before the Sabres dealt him. It wasn’t easy.
“It’s frustrating not to get the results when you put in the hard work,” Miller said. “I know a lot of those guys on the team are proud and they work hard. When you’re not getting the results and people are talking about it, there’s that place where you can kind of go where you can kind of get numb and you don’t get as emotionally charged, or you kind of remind yourself what it is to play.
“I think last year it was getting a little bit numb for a stretch. But I reminded myself why I like to play and (I was) kind of re-energized by the challenge going out to play, and I hope they find that energy and continue to play hard, because they have a lot of talent on that team. There’s going to be some time to develop, and the guys who are going to make up that core of that team, I think they’re going some strong hockey teams in the future.”