Ryan Miller knew what was coming when he gathered with reporters Saturday at Bud Bakewell Arena. So has he met with new general manager Tim Murray?
Miller smirked and said, “Nope. Next question.”
Joke was on the media. Miller continued. Between the team’s game Thursday, today’s game in Washington, Friday’s off day, Saturday’s practice and Murray’s schedule, the pair hasn’t connected yet. But they obviously will soon.
“I’m not sure it’s something that’s going to come up for a little while. We’ll see what happens,” Miller said. “It seems like he’s put in a lot of time evaluting talent and that’s a good place to start. He’s been around some good organizations so let’s see what direction he wants to take it and go from there.”
Miller, of course, is a pending unrestricted free agent and a likely target for many teams at the March 5 trade deadline unless the Sabres sign him to a long-term extension before then. Pat LaFontaine, the team’s president of hockey operations, made it clear Thursday that is the team’s current preference.
“It’s nice of him but I still need to kind of see what’s going on in the bigger picture,” said Miller, who said he did not talk contract with LaFontaine when the former Sabre arrived Nov. 13. “He was just getting his bearings and getting a look around so I guess it’s time to talk to him again and see what’s going on with his side of things.”
Miller said he expects the process to move on the Sabres’ timeline and not to wait until after the Olympics, since the trade deadline is just a week after the Sochi Games end.
“It’s up to them how they want to handle it. Either way I’m fine, professional, go and do my job,” he said. “Olympics, I can definitely make that something that’s separate. Just trying to use the next few weeks to see where we’re at for things and also play some hockey.”
Because of Tuesday’s postponement, Miller will have gone eight days without doing that. He’ll start today in Verizon Center against the Capitals, a team he stoned for 55 saves on 56 shots – including all six shootout attempts – in the Sabres’ 2-1 win here Dec. 29.
“We have to be disciplined. It’s up to the boys in front of me to do their job and I’ll worry about mine,” Miller said. “I’ll clean up anything I can and try to be there for them. Hopefully as a group we’re all doing what we’re supposed to do.”
Interim coach Ted Nolan on Murray: “I really like him. He’s direct. He knows people. He knows hockey players. As a coach, you want a person who’s going to load your arsenal up with some good talent.”
Nolan said he has had no discussions about removing the interim tag from his job status, in the wake of Murray telling a Toronto radio station Friday that could happen soon.
“I hope it does,” Nolan said. “But it’s not one of my things I’m thinking about. It’s trying to get this team better right now, coaching this team to the best of my ability.”
Cody Hodgson (wrist) and Ville Leino (lower body) both practiced fully and Nolan said both will play today. Hodgson, who has eight goals and 19 points, has missed eight games and Leino has been out for four.
“Cody is one of our better players, a dynamic player,” Nolan said. “We’re expecting some big things from him to move the puck and play the way he’s capable of playing. The rest may have done him good. He looks fresh.”
Hodgson said he tried to keep a positive perspective on watching at home or in the press box.
“It’s good to watch and learn some things about the team, how I can fit in a little better,” he said. “At night, you don’t do much besides watch hockey.”
Hodgson was centering Matt D’Agostini and Steve Ott in practice Saturday. Leino was playing with Brian Flynn and Linus Omark. John Scott is likely to be a healthy scratch today.
The Sabres sent Brayden McNabb to play with the short-handed Rochester Amerks Friday night and recalled him Saturday. Center Johan Larsson was returned to Rochester. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was officially returned to the Amerks from his loan to Team Finland for the World Junior Championships, where he scored the Golden Goal in overtime against Sweden.