By Mike Harrington
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- St. Louis Blues goaltender Ryan Miller (yes, that looks weird) is looking forward to seeing his old teammates perhaps tonight for dinner and tomorrow during the morning skate at Scottrade Center. But he won't see them on the ice during the Sabres-Blues game tomorrow night.
Brian Elliott will be getting the start for the Blues and Miller will be the backup. The Blues have afternoon showdowns Saturday and Sunday with Colorado and Chicago, so it makes sense for Miller to stay fresh for those and take a seat against the NHL's 30th-place team. Even if it is his old mates.
"It's fine," Miller said today after his team's optional practice at the suburban St. Louis Mills Ice Zone. "There will be a lot of time to worry about that later. This year, I'm pretty fresh leaving that situation so maybe it's just a nice little break. Get 'Ells' in there. He's going to kick some pucks out. Hopefully I'll see some of the boys for dinner or around the rink or something. Catch up and see how they're doing."
Miller got a tad emotional, as you would expect, when I asked him what it will be like to seeing his the Sabres on the other side.
"It's going to be a little strange. Definitely with a group of guys you'd played with for a number of years, it's going to be a little bit different," he said. "All great guys, all guys I count as friends. I'm looking forward to seeing them. That's the human side of it. I'm actually excited. The guys are going to be in town. A chance to see some friends."
Coach Ken Hitchcock, who's ruined a few narratives in Buffalo in his time, said the decision was all about the weekend schedule. There's a good chance Miller could go back-to-back against the Avs and Hawks.
"We talked to him and said, 'Listen, do you have to play aginst Buffalo? Does it matter?''' Hitchcock said. "He didn't care one way or the other. So it set up our schedule nicely for what we wanted to do right to the end of the season."
Miller is coming off a 1-0 shootout win last night against Philadelphia, his first shutout in more than two years. He made 31 saves in the game and two more in the shootout. Miller is 10-3-2 since joining St. Louis, with 2.01 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.
"The shots that came, I just happened to be in the right spot," Miller said. "You get nights like that where everything works out. You have other nights where you feel you're in perfect position and they still find a way to get in there. It's been a long stretch of those kind of nights and it was fun to have one where everything was going my way."
Captain Steve Ott will make his first appearance against the Sabres since the Feb. 28 on Thursday. He did not skate in Wednesday's optional practice and had left the building by the time reporters entered the Blues' dressing room but I spoke to him by phone late this afternoon and suffice to say, he's pumped.
"It's like any game where you have friends out there," Ott said. "I'm just going to be myself and I expect them to be the same. There's no friends on the ice but what's said and done on the ice stays there and gets forgotten pretty quick. I'm going to play hard against them and expect them to play hard at me. You owe that to the league."
Ott wouldn't specify who but says he has a couple ideas of guys who might be chirping him some tomorrow.
"I hope none of the boys start trying to wake him up too much," Miller said of the Sabres. "You know how he gets when he gets really awake. I don't think anybody is going to try to give him too hard a time. He likes to stir things up. I'm sure he's going to be running his mouth a little bit and getting into guys. That's how he has fun. You guys all know that."
Click below to hear audio from Miller, including his thoughts on last night's game and the matchup with Philly goalie Ray Emery, his old playoff adversary from the Sabres-Ottawa showdowns.