MILLER RETURNS TO PRACTICE
Ryan Miller was back on the ice as a full participant in practice Wednesday morning at First Niagara Center.
The Buffalo Sabres goaltender did not dress against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday and served as the backup on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning due to a lower-body injury. Jhonas Enroth started in his place, going 0-1-1 with a .912 save percentage and a 2.95 goals against average.
Miller took part in the morning skate on Tuesday, but Wednesday marked his first practice with the team since sustaining the injury.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston said after practice that Miller is healthy and available to play when the Sabres host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.
Miller told reporters that he that he feels good and hopes he can pick up where he left off before the injury. In his two starts this season, Miller stopped 77 of 80 shots.
“I knew it was pretty minor. I was just being cautious. Jhonas was going to play in Pittsburgh anyways so I just took that opportunity to rest completely and guarantee some rest,” Miller said. “It just lingered a little longer and I wanted to make sure I clear up any issues because if you don’t take care of it the right way, it turns into weeks. Now we’re in a case where I only really missed one game in the schedule. Hopefully I get back in the rhythm where I was at and I’ll go again.”
Cody Hodgson was given another maintenance day and did not skate. Rolston said on Monday that Hodgson is day-to-day with a lower body. Hodgson played against Tampa Bay on Tuesday despite not practicing on Monday and scored his first goal of the season. Rolston said he’ll be in the lineup on Thursday against Columbus.
With Hodgson’s absence from practice, Mikhail Grigorenko centered the top line with co-captains Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott. Grigorenko bounced around on a few lines against the Lightning and played 8:07 in the game.
Rolston had commented last week that Girgorenko’s compete level was getting closer to where the coaching staff would like it to be. He reiterated that on Tuesday.
“It’s getting there, but it needs to continue to improve, I think,” Rolston said. “That’s that last hurdle for him and that’s something that he’s got to work on.”
The Sabres have quite a few options at the center position and it’s likely the lineup will change based on the opponent.
Tyler Ennis remains in the middle and practiced with wings Drew Stafford and Marcus Foligno. On the third line at practice, Johan Larsson served as the pivot for Zemgus Girgensons and Brian Flynn. Larsson was a healthy scratch last game. Kevin Porter and Cody McCormick rotated a bit down the middle on the fourth line alongside John Scott and Patrick Kaleta.
“Right now it’s just building up what we feel center-wise will be good matchup situations,” Rolston said. “You go into last night [against Tampa Bay], you’ve got [Steven] Stamkos, [Valtteri] Filppula and Tyler Johnson, who was the American Hockey League Most Valuable Player as their three centers. We were trying to make some adjustments there and moving [Ennis] to center helps us a bit there to be a little stronger in that spot.”
Rolston gave no indication as to which players might be out of the lineup against Columbus.
One player that could possibly play on Thursday is rookie defenseman Nikita Zadorov. He practiced with the team for the first time since cutting his finger while blocking a shot in the team’s final preseason game on Sept. 27.
Zadorov is eligible to go back to juniors, but Rolston said there’s a possibility they could keep him in Buffalo a little while longer.
“He would be available if we wanted to keep him here. We have to make that decision,” he said.
Henrik Tallinder could be back for the team’s game in Chicago on Saturday, according to Rolston. Tallinder sustained an upper-body injury in the home opener on Friday. Rolston said he’s been skating in the mornings but he has yet to put in a practice with the team.
26 Thomas Vanek – 25 Mikhail Grigorenko – 9 Steve Ott
82 Marcus Foligno – 63 Tyler Ennis – 21 Drew Stafford
28 Zemgus Girgensons – 22 Johan Larsson – 65 Brian Flynn
32 John Scott – 12 Kevin Porter / 8 Cody McCormick – 36 Patrick Kaleta