DENVER — Ryan Miller is on an extended roll. Since the middle of December, the Buffalo goaltender is 8-3-3 with a 2.09 goals-against average and .938 save percentage. Those are top-notch numbers that stand out even more when contrasted with the Sabres’ 15-30-8 record.
Still, the run might not get him the starting assignment for the United States at the Olympics.
USA Hockey named its captains Friday – Zach Parise will wear the “C” while Ryan Suter and Dustin Brown are the alternates – and the team’s goaltending came up during the news conference. Miller, Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick and Detroit’s Jimmy Howard are the team’s three goalies.
Miller and Quick are the leading candidates to be in the crease Feb. 13 against Slovakia, but coach Dan Bylsma isn’t ready to name a starter.
“That’s not a question I’m ready to answer for right now,” Bylsma said. “It’s going to be a tough choice. Both guys are playing really well.”
Miller was the star of the 2010 Olympics, which looks nice on his resume. But Quick won the Stanley Cup in 2012.
“I’ve had reports from the tournament that he was the best player for Team USA and for the tournament,” Bylsma said of Miller. “He was that good, and he was a big part of that team’s success right up to the end and the golden goal in overtime. He has that experience.
“You’re also looking at the other goalies on our team having championship experience. Jonathan Quick won the Stanley Cup and was maybe the best player on that team.”
Byslma said it’s not his philosophy to pick one goaltender and ride him throughout the tournament. That means one goalie might play against Slovakia and another one could be in the crease two days later against host Russia.
Miller played all six games in 2010 and went 5-1 with a 1.35 GAA and .946 save percentage.
The Sabres visit the Colorado Avalanche at 3 this afternoon, and they should feel somewhat rested. Buffalo is playing its fourth game in a stretch of seven in 11 days, so coach Ted Nolan decided to stay away from the practice rink Friday.
The decision was easy after the Sabres got nestled in their Denver beds at about 3:30 a.m. Friday following a flight from Phoenix.
“By the time we get up and drive an hour outside of town for a half-hour skate, sometimes rest is a little bit more beneficial than going on the ice,” Nolan said.
The Sabres didn’t practice Wednesday, either, and it’ll be interesting to see if they skate Super Bowl Sunday. They have a home game Monday against Edmonton, host Pittsburgh on Wednesday and travel to Ottawa on Thursday.
Luckily for the Sabres, the calendar has switched to February. Avs goaltender Semyon Varlamov went 10-1-1 in January, which helped earn him a five-year, $29.5 million contract extension.
Buffalo might also get a break because injured forwards Paul Stastny (ankle) and Alex Tanguay (knee) are questionable for Colorado.
The Avs have gone 7-2-1 in their last 10 games to improve to 34-14-5. They are 18-7-3 in Pepsi Center but remain wary of the Sabres.
“It’s just a matter to respect these guys,” Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. “They’ve been playing better hockey lately. They seem to play well under Ted Nolan, and I think it’s going to be important for us to play a good game.”