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Miller still chasing Cup dreams

Aaron Miller could look back on his career from a couple of different angles, one much healthier than the other. He has spent parts of 13 seasons in the NHL in what evolved into an exhilarating ride. But it's also dotted with versions of Wide Right that only a native Western New Yorker could truly understand.

Miller is scheduled to arrive in Vancouver this morning and sign a one-year contract worth $1.5 million with the Canucks, quite a score for a player looking for a legitimate chance at winning the Stanley Cup and a team on the rise looking for a veteran who can assist in guiding them there.

At age 36 and coming off the first season in his career in which he played all 82 games, Miller isn't going to lift all boats in Vancouver. He'll be there to help prevent them from sinking. There's no telling whether the West Seneca native will play beyond this season, so this could be his final year to win his first championship as a professional.

Yes, he's had his share of just misses.

People often mistake him for winning the Cup in Colorado. He played just five games and did not appear in the playoffs in 1995-96, when the Avs won it all in their first season in Denver. In 2000-01, the year Colorado won it with Ray Bourque, Miller was shipped to Los Angeles at the NHL trade deadline in a package for star defenseman Rob Blake.

Miller, who lost in the conference finals three times with Colorado, played for the 2002 U.S. Olympic team, which lost to Canada in the gold-medal game.

"It's one way you can look at it," Miller said by telephone over the weekend. "The way I look at it is that I have a silver medal. A lot of guys, great players, never get even close to a Stanley Cup. There are some who play for losing teams their whole career."

Miller spent four seasons with Los Angeles before becoming an unrestricted free agent July 1. He had grandiose ideas about playing this season for the Buffalo Sabres. At the time, the Sabres were in disarray after losing Miller's longtime friend and former roommate, Chris Drury, and co-captain Daniel Briere on the first day of free agency.

The Sabres showed little interest in Miller and instead re-signed Teppo Numminen for $2.6 million. Vancouver called, and Miller took the one-year deal. Injuries and the NHL schedule have prevented him from playing any game here since the 2002-03 season. The Canucks and Sabres do not play one another in the regular season this year, so it's quite possible he's already played his last game in Buffalo.

"I would love to play in Buffalo," Miller said. "I have my whole family there. I told my agent, 'On July 1, your first call is to Buffalo.' He called, but we all know what was going on there. The last thing they were worried about was me. . . . It was a little more attractive before they started losing part of their team, but everybody wants to play in the city where they're from."

Actually, it could wind up working out better in Vancouver. The Canucks are copying Anaheim's blueprint, wrapping role players around a terrific defense corps and good goaltending. The Canucks' blue line was strong before Miller arrived. Goalie Roberto Luongo is one of the best players in the league.

Miller is short on speed, but long on smarts and has played in big games so he should help the Canucks' title quest.

Perhaps he can help turn a coincidence into a trend.

Clarence-raised Kevyn Adams became the first Western New York player to win the Stanley Cup, which he did two years ago with Carolina. Williamsville native Todd Marchant followed in June with Anaheim. Miller isn't going to lift all boats in Vancouver, but you might say he's on deck.


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