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Banged-up Miller won't face Sabres as Canucks go for 4-0

VANCOUVER -- Goaltender Ryan Miller won't start Thursday in Rogers Arena after what he described as "tightness" in his core areas knocked him out of the Vancouver Canucks' lineup Tuesday.

Miller told Vancouver reporters he expects to dress for the game against the Buffalo Sabres and serve as the backup against his former team while Jacob Markstrom gets the start.

Miller said he woke up Monday on the team's off day feeling the twinges but felt they would go away so he could play Tuesday against St. Louis. When they did not, Markstrom played in the 2-1 overtime win over the Blues and the unbeaten Canucks had to call up Univeristy of British Columbia goaltender Matt Hewitt to serve as the backup because their AHL farm team is across the continent in Utica.

"As a goaltender, you feel this way probably 10 times a season," said Miller, now 36. "It's 'Oh, I'm a little tight today but tomorrow I'll have my hips and back lined up, do the right recovery and I'll feel fine.' Once you're able to get that rest, you're fine the next day. It just held on a little longer. It not an injury, it’s more a muscle that didn’t want to settle down. Something in my alignment was off."

Buffalo's all-time leader in victories made 25 saves in his only start thus far this season for Vancouver, a 2-1 shootout win Saturday over Calgary. The issue likely occurred when he stretched on a shootout attempt by Johnny Gaudreau. Miller practiced on his own Wednesday for about 45 minutes and will likely take the morning skate Thursday, albeit cautiously.

"This is one where I knew I had a muscle and fatigue, that if I went out and exploded into a save, I would put myself in a bad situation," Miller said, smiling at reporters. "Instead, you guys get the everyman-is-a-backup story, Hewitt has a fun night, Marky was great ... so it all works out and we keep going."

Miller is in the final season of his three-year, $18-million contract he signed with the Canucks in 2014. He was just 17-24-6 for them last season with a 2.70 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.

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Courtesy of Canucks.com, here's the video of Miller's meeting with reporters Wednesday morning:

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The Canucks enter Thursday's game 3-0 -- and as the first team in NHL history to win its first three games without ever leading in regulation. Vancouver and Tampa Bay are the only NHL teams with unblemished records.

The Canucks scored in the final four minutes of their opener to tie Calgary before winning in the shootout, wiped out a 3-0 third-period deficit to post a 4-3 win Sunday over Carolina, then scored late in the third period against the Blues to force overtime and won it, 2-1, on Daniel Sedin's goal.

So they've given up five goals in three games and one of them was an own-goal by Loui Eriksson against Calgary, when he fired the puck into his empty net after Miller had left the ice during a delayed penalty.

"They just haven't given up a lot in the games they've played," said Sabres coach Dan Bylsma. "We saw how the puck went in them against them two games ago. That was the only way. They've haven't really given up a lot in all three games, they've hung around to get offense from their big guys and won in overtime and shootouts as a result."

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Tuesday's loss in Calgary was Buffalo's first game in overtime this season, and thus the first one without the injured Jack Eichel and Evander Kane playing key roles in the 3-on-3 affair. Bylsma admitted OT is going to be a work in progress without those two key cogs.

Bylsma used Josh Gorges and Rasmus Ristolainen with Ryan O'Reilly to start the OT, and had another stretch where Johan Larsson was playing with Zach Bogosian and Dmitry Kulikov. The winning goal came with O'Reilly and Reinhart on the ice along with defenseman Jake McCabe.

"We're trying to win the game in overtime, there's no question about that," Bylsma said. "There's no such thing as waiting for a shootout. The matchups and deployments of guys is a little different without Jack and Evander in the lineup. We have to get creative with guys on... On possession, we would get the defenseman off the ice."

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Larsson did not practice here Wednesday for what Bylsma termed a maintenance day but the coach said he expected Larsson to be available. The Sabres did not do any line work, focusing mostly on power plays with emphasis on 4-on-3 and 5-on-3 situations.

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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