By John Vogl
Ryan Miller is eager to make his 500th appearance in a Buffalo Sabres uniform Friday. It's a milestone he's thrilled to reach.
But, he says, it's not a finale.
"There’ll be more hockey games," Miller said today after practice in First Niagara Center. "It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s nice to just be able to talk about it right now. I think I’ve got a lot more hockey in me, so [it's nice] being able to just kind of reflect and enjoy a moment, but it’s going to be another hockey game and I have to prepare and compete. I’m just trying to enjoy that part of it. That’s what I like to do. That’s what I know to do."
Miller will become the 62nd goaltender to play 500 and just the 20th to do it with the same team.
Though Miller will certainly play again, there are questions as to where. He has only one year left on his contract, and the Sabres are rebuilding.
"There’s been a lot of ‘could be last game as a Sabre’ the last few years," Miller said. "I’m just trying to enjoy the moment. It’s going to be my 500th game. I’m going to approach it the same way I’ve approached the other 499: Just put your pads on and try to do your best. See where it kind of goes, go out and have fun, try and make the saves and see where it all shakes out."
Miller's previous start in Buffalo was rocky, with the goaltender getting pulled after allowing four goals in 22 minutes. The fans jeered him, and he gave them a wave during play.
"I’m not mad at the fans," he said. "It’s heat of the moment. You get emotional.
"Some people were giving me some grief, and I just picked my hand up like, ‘OK, I hear ya.’ It wasn’t a screw you. It wasn’t a, ‘I hate you guys.’ It was, ‘You know, I hear ya. Enough. I get it. Just let me try and do what I’ve got to do.’
"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. We don’t even talk about all the stuff I try and do to make this feel more like my second home. That’s where I’m going to leave it. I care about the people here. If they’re frustrated with the way we’re playing, I can acknowledge it and we can move on."
The Sabres will again be without Ville Leino when they host the Islanders in the season finale.
"He had some issues with his lung, yes, that he’s dealing with," interim coach Ron Rolston said. "He’s actually a lot better. He’s doing well right now. Obviously, it’s a serious injury, but it wasn’t anything that was major."