Ryan Miller has been able to observe the Sabres from ice level and watch them from afar. The unique combination helped the goaltender see the faults that have contributed to Buffalo’s 0-3 start.
The Sabres have been a hesitant, on-their-heels group so far. Miller is certain that will change, though maybe not in time for tonight’s home game against Tampa Bay.
“I think we’re going to start making some quicker decisions,” Miller said Monday in First Niagara Center. “We need a little bit of confidence. We have a good group of guys that can move the puck. I think we’re just a little bit timid. We’re waiting for something good to kind of happen, but I think we’re putting ourselves in decent places.
“We need to control the puck a little more, and these guys have the skill to do it. They’re going to start stepping up. It just takes a little bit of confidence, a little bit of time, and I think we can start seeing some improvements there. It’s definitely something we can do.”
Miller may get his third vantage point on the Sabres tonight. He started the first two games but was unable to dress Saturday in Pittsburgh because of a sore groin. He didn’t practice with the team Monday but did get on the ice for a workout after the session ended.
He’s apparently well enough to be in the lineup because emergency recall Matt Hackett left the ice in the middle of practice and packed his bag for Rochester. Miller likely will be the backup to Jhonas Enroth, but he was going to huddle with athletic trainer Tim Macre to see if starting tonight was a possibility.
“I was a little tight after the last game, and I just wanted to be cautious early in the season,” Miller said. “I felt better than I kind of anticipated, so I’ll see if I can make myself available. But no practice, and after a couple days off I’m not sure what the right course of action will be.
“I just want to make sure it’s not going to be something that’s going to turn into weeks. I thought it’d be a day or two, and it took about a day longer. It’s just not something you want to creep into your body, your game, your mind-set. Get it out, get it done. You don’t want groin stuff to pop up.”
The Sabres don’t want their losing streak to linger, either. Their best effort was a shutout loss to Ottawa, while they were outclassed by Detroit and Pittsburgh.
“I’m just worried about the process of winning right now,” coach Ron Rolston said. “We have to get to that point before we worry about the rest. We’ve got to have a process of playing well period-to-period, and then the results will come. The results are going to come with the process, but if the process isn’t there, you’re not going to have results.”
The season debut of Marcus Foligno could help.
After missing the first three games with a shoulder injury, the big left winger is healthy and ready to create offense on a team that has scored just twice.
“This is a time to really establish myself and help out the team,” Foligno said. “We need to get back on track here. We really can’t let things slide. It’s the first three games, I get that, but at the same time it was definitely tough to watch us lose.
“I know I can bring that presence where guys feel a little bit more comfortable just with the forecheck. We got pucks in, and there wasn’t too much of an effort getting them back. There were times when the boys played great, but we just need that energy where you just keep going and going and going. It’s what the fans like to see, and it wears on their defense.”
The forecheck has been lacking because the Sabres rarely have the puck. When they get it, they usually give it back.
Rolston spent the first 15 minutes of practice running elementary passing drills.
“It’s hockey school stuff, but we’ve got to get better with our hands,” the coach said. “A portion of our problems, even in our zone, is just making a pass and catching a pass to get out of the zone. That’s part of it, and that’s why we worked on it.”
Center Cody Hodgson sat out practice with a lower-body injury. Rolston listed him as day-to-day but expects him to be in the lineup.
In order to have exactly four forward lines and four defense pairs, Rolston used left wing John Scott as a defenseman. The enforcer used to be a blue-liner, but Monday’s move was only temporary.
The Sabres announced the first two stops for their “Road Crew,” with the team set to host parties in San Jose and Los Angeles next month.
The first event will be Nov. 4 in San Jose, while the festivities in L.A. will be Nov. 6. For a $10 donation to the team’s foundation, participants can mingle with Danny Gare, Rene Robert, Rob Ray and members of the broadcast crew, and get food and drink specials.
Tickets are available at Sabres.com or by calling 855-4468.