By Mike Harrington
PITTSBURGH -- The Sabres open a brutal stretch of seven games in the final 11 nights prior to the Olympic break tonight in Consol Energy Center (remember that it's a 7:30 game on NBCSN). They are going to have to massage their goaltenders through this stretch and I was certainly one of the observers who thought Ryan Miller would get tonight off and play tomorrow against Washington, with Jhonas Enroth getting the call tonight against the Penguins.
That's how the numbers would play it. Miller is 7-11-3, 3.26 and .888 against Pittsburgh -- his worst winning percentage and save percentage against any opponent. Meanwhile, he's stopped 77 of 79 shots, plus all nine shootout attempts against him, in two wins against the Capitals this year.
Enroth, meanwhile, is 1-3, 2.58 and .914 against Pittsburgh but just 1-10-4 on the season.
Nolan is going with Miller tonight. He loves Miller, like any coach would. The numbers be damned, Nolan told me today when I asked about them after the morning skate.
"We looked at it. Especially with this year going into the Olympics monitoring our play time with both goaltenders," Nolan said. "But if you looked at Miller's numbers lately, it's been pretty effective. He's a little bit more well rested and in return he's playing much better."
After a glittering December (5-2-1, 1.82, .949), Miller has cooled some in January (3-2-2, 2.37, .921). But he was terrific Saturday in Columbus making 36 saves so it's hard to argue the move. And you know NBC is happy: Think there will be enough Miller-Sidney Crosby discussion tonight?
(Miller, like many goaltenders, does not speak to the media on gameday prior to the game).
Elsewhere in the Buffalo lineup, Nolan said Drew Stafford aggravated a previous injury Saturday in Columbus and will be out tonight and perhaps a few more games. Ville Leino, who didn't finish the game Saturday, will play and Linus Omark will be in for Stafford. John Scott and Alexander Sulzer will be scratches.
Marc-Andre Fleury will be in goal for Pittsburgh, which has won 14 of its last 15 home games but is coming off Saturday's 3-0 loss in Dallas.
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