BUFFALO – In Ted Nolan’s mind, franchise goalie Ryan Miller, an unrestricted free agent following the season, is more of a building block for the struggling Sabres than an asset.
“You build around him versus as a pawn to try to get something to make you better,” the interim coach said Wednesday. “You learn to deal with the now as a coach, and we got one of the better goaltenders in the world here. I’d like to build around him, myself.”
Is Miller open to that?
“I’m not too sure,” Nolan said after the Sabres prepared for tonight’s game against the New York Rangers inside the First Niagara Center.
Nolan has said he’s talked to Pat LaFontaine, the president of hockey operations, about creating “an environment where people want to come here and stay.”
“So hopefully he likes what we’re doing, and you never know,” Nolan said.
He added: “You look at all the championship teams, it starts from the goaltending up.”
Trade rumors have been swirling around Miller for months.
Nolan isn’t surprised Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist signed a seven-year, $59.5 million extension Wednesday.
“You look at all the top guys, our top guy, Ryan Miller, he’s consistent all the time,” he said. “You look at Jonathan Quick, he gets a big contract, Lundqvist. There’s those guys and the rest of them.”
Sabres defenseman Brayden McNabb, a healthy scratch the last two games, played for the Rochester Americans on Wednesday before returning to the NHL.
Sitting long isn’t good for the 22-year-old, Nolan said.
“The greatest thing about having the Rochester Americans so close he can go down and play,” Nolan said. “He sat out almost five days now. We can give him some game action. We’ll recall him right after the game.”
Update: McNabb had a goal and three points in Rochester’s 6-1 win over the Utica Comets.
In other lineup news, defenseman Alexander Sulzer (undisclosed injury) missed practice again Wednesday, meaning he’s likely out tonight.
“It’s going to be day-to-day,” Nolan said.
To make room on the roster for forward Cody McCormick, who’s ready to return from a four-game absence, the Sabres could place Sulzer on injured reserve, Nolan said.
“It’s never fun sitting there,” said McCormick, whose injury has been described as either upper or lower. “I’ve done it too many times in my career. So I’m just looking forward to this game right now.”
Meanwhile, illness kept winger Matt D’Agostini from practicing Wednesday.
D’Agostini could play tonight, Nolan said.
Sabres prospect J.T. Compher has been named to Team USA’s world junior championship training camp roster. The Sabres selected the Michigan winger 35th overall in June.