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Miller remains sharp between the pipes

Ryan Miller has been sharp in goal and so has the defense in front of him. It's no coincidence the Buffalo Sabres are winning games.

Miller made 30 saves, including several toughies, in Tuesday's 2-1 win over the New York Islanders to continue what's been his best four weeks of the season.

Miller is 7-2-2 over his last 12 games (including his relief effort Thursday in Philadelphia), and has posted a goals-against average of 1.72 and a save percentage of .938 in that span.

"It's been coming around for a little while here and I do feel a little bit better about my game," Miller said. "There's big buildup here toward the end of the season and I want to be as sharp as I can and gather as many wins as possible. I'm just trying to stay really calm and collected and watch the play."

Nowhere was that more evident than in the second period, when Miller stopped Brian Rolston on a breakaway and then stacked his pads and stoned Josh Bailey on a rebound.

"I just wanted to hang with Rolston coming in from that side," Miller said. "I wasn't thinking he had much of an option for a shot the way that chase [by the Buffalo defense] was going. I thought maybe he'd try something cute. He kind of did, trying to go 5-hole and I had time to reload before Bailey got in.

"We had a little bit of pressure on him too so he couldn't just pick it up and move it around me. I saw that develop and knew I could get as big as I could."

Miller wanted the Islanders' only goal back, as he gave up a short-side slapshot by Frans Nielsen with 5:08 to play. But less than a minute later, he robbed Matt Moulson from just off the edge of the crease to preserve Buffalo's lead.

"After that goal, I needed to shut the door," Miller said. "So I was happy to be there."

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The Sabres will take today off, their first time off the ice since Feb. 12. They are 7-3-2 in their last 12 games and 2-0-1 since dropping three straight and falling 10 points out of the final playoff spot. They're now six back.

"We'll take a day away from the rink, let them enjoy it," coach Lindy Ruff said. "It has been a real tough run with a lot of games. Our goaltender played a lot of hockey. We've had some individuals that have played a lot. There was a little bit of fatigue at times in our game but I thought then we picked it up and we got through it pretty good."

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Ruff said Buffalo defenseman Robyn Regehr is day-to-day after sitting out the final two periods after taking a high stick. With Regehr out and Mike Weber sidelined the first six minutes while serving a fighting major, the Sabres opened the third period with just four defensemen.

"It was fun," said Andrej Sekera. "We kept the shifts short and made sure we didn't overstay shifts so we didn't get tired. We did 30 seconds on the ice, 30 seconds off and we were refreshed to go."

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Islanders coach Jack Capuano missed the game with the flu. The bench was instead run by assistant Doug Weight, the longtime NHL veteran who won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and wrapped up his career by playing the last three years for the Islanders.

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Sabres rookie Zack Kassian on following his first trade deadline while in the NHL: "It's different to come to the rink and watch [TSN's version of] SportsCenter and they're talking about all these different trades. You don't listen to much of it but it definitely brings a little bit of a different atmosphere to the rink."

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Jason Pominville's two points gave him 39 at home this year, tied for second in the NHL with Philadelphia's Claude Giroux. Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos leads with 43. Tyler Myers' first-period goal extended his point streak to four games, one shy of his career high set in March 2010. Christian Ehrhoff led the Sabres in ice time at 23:27. Patrick Kaleta played 18:51, just six seconds shy of his career high. The Sabres announced their 27th straight sellout of 18,690 and their 31st in 32 home games this season.

email: mharrington@buffnews.com