The Buffalo Sabres are asking Ryan Miller to take a seat.
The All-Star goaltender isn't being benched per se. That would seem as though he has been punished.
But the Sabres haven't been happy with Miller's recent performances and are giving him time to rediscover his game.
"He needs two or three real good practice days where he just gets back to what I call a relaxed comfort zone," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "He seems like he's been uptight. He's put a lot of pressure on himself, which he usually does."
Martin Biron will start tonight's game against the Boston Bruins in HSBC Arena, where the Sabres will try to snap a three-game losing streak. Biron could go again for Thursday's rematch in TD Banknorth Garden.
Still the No. 1 netminder, Miller is coming off back-to-back losses in which the Sabres led after two periods. The New York Islanders beat him for two soft third-period goals in a 5-3 loss Saturday night.
"My game's been good, but it hasn't been where I wanted it to be," Miller said. "Some of my mental errors have made a bigger difference than usually they might."
Although the long-shot goals drew attention Miller's way this weekend, his entire month has been erratic.
When he beat the Islanders on New Year's Day he had won four games in a row, giving up one goal in three straight games. Since then he is 3-5 with a shootout loss, a 3.18 goals-against average and an .893 save percentage.
Ruff expressed his desire for Miller to be "a little more aggressive with the shooter in a couple cases" and questioned some of the goalie's decisions.
"I don't think I've been on top of my game for probably a few weeks, where it's been top of the league," Miller said. "That's where I expect myself to be.
"Definitely, the last few games I've felt I've had good stretches in the game but mistakes that define the game rather than my good play and solid starts. Being in tight games for the last three or four games, the exclamation points have been my mistakes."
Miller conceded he was worn out after a hectic All-Star week schedule in Dallas. As the Eastern Conference's starting goalie, he was in demand. Miller helped country music icon Garth Brooks open a playroom at a Fort Worth children's hospital and greeted U.S. troops arriving home from the Middle East. There were media obligations, photo shoots, luncheons.
"I wasn't going to shy away from experiencing the All-Star week," Miller said. "I'm not going to point at it as an excuse, but it's something that's going to all add up eventually."
Ruff shouldered some of the blame for Miller's weariness. Ruff coached the Eastern Conference squad and was aware of the burdens placed on the players.
Goaltenders would seem even more susceptible to having their delicate routines thrown out of whack. In fact, Miller wasn't alone in his All-Star hangover. The six honored goalies combined won two of their next nine games entering Monday.
"To go through the week he went through with the All-Star and come out of that and play a couple games, maybe my decision to play him both games . . . I may look back on that as a decision I'd like to have back," Ruff said. "I'm going to get his game back to where it needs to be, and I think practice for two or three days is a good place for him to be."
Miller said he has gone through at least one difficult stretch every season he has played.
He went through one such period in March and April of last season. In a 12-game stretch he allowed five goals three times and four goals four times and was pulled twice. Then he won four straight, including his only shutout of the season, to close out the regular season.
"I'm not too worried about it. I do this once or twice a year, where you kind of refocus, re-attack and go about your business," Miller said. "This is nothing that I haven't seen in years past. Just get rest, practice on basic things and when the game comes around you can't think about it, can't dwell on it. You just execute and just play some hockey."
How Ryan gets his groove back might not depend on how much time he spends at practice compared to on his mattress.
"My last few days have been solid sleep," Miller said. "I went home [Sunday] and took a nice long nap and then went to bed around 9:30 that night, fell asleep by 10.
"That's important for me right now, to get some rest and then come to the rink and compete in practice every day. That's usually where I start feeling better because I'm a competitive person, and if I'm not competing in practice every day, eventually I start to slip a little bit."
Comparing Miller's record
Through Jan. 1 / 21-5-22 / 54 GAA / 918 save percentage
Since / 3-5-13 / 18 GAA / 893 save percentage