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Sabres notebook Ruff says he'll keep Miller, Biron busy

Lindy Ruff is hoping to show that a jockey can, in fact, ride two horses in the same race.

The Buffalo Sabres coach charged hard out of the gate with Ryan Miller, but when the franchise goalie went down with a broken right thumb, the saddle was thrown on Martin Biron.

Now that Miller's back and both netminders are winning, Ruff has to find a way to maintain their momentum in preparation for a wicked homestretch.

Miller apparently doesn't need to be ridden back into form. He has won five straight starts since his return, including Friday night's superb 34-save effort to beat the Atlanta Thrashers, 4-1.

Biron has lost in regulation only once in his last 15 starts, including a franchise record for winning 13 starts in a row.

"I look at trying to keep them both involved," Ruff said after Saturday morning's practice in HSBC Arena. "Maybe the reward for playing well is you play back-to-back. But we're going to have a schedule after the Olympic break where we need two goalies, and I gotta keep them both going."

The Sabres have consecutive off days only once from March 1 to April 8. That's 22 games in 39 days. In addition, 15 of their last 25 games are against Northeast Division foes.

"I don't think you can close the book on three (goalies), even," Ruff said, referring to Mika Noronen, a healthy scratch who hasn't played since Dec. 2.

Ruff didn't announce who the starting goalie would be for today's game against the Florida Panthers in the arena, but signs point to Miller.

"The fact that Ryan hasn't played a lot, he had the six weeks off, he's fresh," Ruff said. "I think that shows in his game."

***

Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere smiled while trying to keep a positive outlook on his looming sports hernia surgery.

"It's a relief to know exactly what's going on," Briere said.

Doctors had been miffed about his nagging torso injury until the diagnosis was confirmed Friday. Renowned abdominal specialist David Mulder will handle the surgery in Montreal likely this week.

The loose timetable for Briere's return is eight weeks, but that could change. He has a small muscle tear on the right side of his stomach, but he's also experiencing painful inflammation near his pubic bone, and there could be minor nerve damage.

"We'll know more when they open me up," Briere said.

Briere missed eight games, then came back for three (he had two goals and one assist) before going back on the shelf the last seven.

"They tell me I could rest two weeks and maybe play two, three, four games. And then I'd have to sit out another two weeks to let it heal," Briere said. "I can't afford to do that the rest of the year. I might as well get it fixed now and be ready for the playoff stretch."

***

It appears Dmitri Kalinin will miss his 10th straight game while recovering from a broken right pinkie.

Ruff said Kalinin was close to returning, but noted the defenseman would benefit from three more days off. The Sabres won't play again until the Tampa Bay Lightning visits Thursday.

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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