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Miller watches as goalies shuffle Lalime starts tonight; Enroth new backup

Those of you waiting for some definitive news on what's suddenly become Western New York's most famous ankle will have to keep waiting.

The Buffalo Sabres didn't break much new ground Monday when discussing Ryan Miller's high ankle sprain. Coach Lindy Ruff said Miller will be out "indefinitely" but Miller gave a shred of good news when he said some swelling has gone down.

As expected, Patrick Lalime takes over for Miller tonight when Anaheim comes to HSBC Arena. Rookie Jhonas Enroth arrived Monday from Portland of the American Hockey League to serve as Lalime's backup.

"There really is no more than that," Ruff said. "An ankle sprain takes time and you don't know how much time it's going to take."

Miller was injured when he was bumped by New York Rangers center Scott Gomez early in the third period of Saturday's 4-2 win. He watched much of Monday morning's practice from the Sabres' bench while sitting in a sweatsuit. Afterward, he walked into a room full of reporters and stood in front of them with a boot on his left leg.

"It didn't have a lot [of swelling] to begin with so that's good," Miller said. "It's a little achy and it's one of those things you have to see how it reacts. . . . There's really no timetable. We just have to see how it's reacting."

Asked if he thought he was looking at a quick return or could potentially miss most, if not all, of the remaining 22 games of the regular season, Miller was noncommittal.

"The side I like to take is you remain hopeful," he said. "The doctors told me it's a mild high ankle sprain. It's a joint and affects a few things in there. Mostly it's getting the swelling down, getting the aches and pains away and then rehabbing."

Lalime, a 16-game winner as a backup last year in Chicago, has won just two games this season for the Sabres. But he's been solid in his three February appearances (3.07 goals-against average and .924 save percentage), and made 34 saves in the 3-2 loss Feb. 2 at Anaheim.

Ruff said it's going to be Lalime for the foreseeable future. That means tonight and Thursday's showdown at Carolina will be his first back-to-back starts as a Sabre.

"It's a challenge," Lalime said. "You play this game to be in there, to be the man. It's up to me now, to just go out there and enjoy it."

"He's going to get into a rhythm," Miller said. "Patty has proven in the past he's the kind of guy who can step in and play. He's been a big-time performer coming to us and coming off a good run in Chicago. . . .

"He's a good guy, upbeat. Everyone in the locker room really respects him and really cares for him."

Lalime, a former standout in Pittsburgh and Ottawa, has 193 wins and 35 shutouts in his career.

"He's not a stranger to it, which is good," said captain Craig Rivet. "He's a player who's been through this part of the game and he's been a No. 1 in this league. We've been happy to have him from the start of the year and we're very confident in front of him."

In a six-week span late last season with the Blackhawks, Lalime was 7-6-1 with a 3.42 GAA in 14 starts while Nikolai Khabibulin was sidelined.

"Pat is a competitor," Ruff said. "He wants to play more than he's played and this is a great opportunity. He's got a good feel for what the Ducks can do. He played out in that conference and he knows those players better than we know them."

Enroth had an 18-17-5 record in Portland with a 2.71 GAA, .915 save percentage and three shutouts. Buffalo's second-round selection in the 2006 draft, the Swede leads AHL rookies in games played (43) and shutouts, and is second in wins.

But Enroth has been struggling mightily (0-6-3 in his last nine starts) and it's unlikely he'll see much action unless Lalime completely falls apart.

"I'm going to stay day to day with it," Ruff said. "It really depends on how well Patty plays."

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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