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NOTEBOOK: MILLER HONORED FOR BIG WEEK

Monday, 03.28.2011 / 3:16 PM / News
By Rob Crean  - Public Relations Director
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NOTEBOOK: MILLER HONORED FOR BIG WEEK
First Star: Ryan Miller said last week after the team’s 4-3 overtime loss to Nashville, a game that saw Buffalo give up a two-goal lead in the final minutes of the third period, that the Sabres would have to own up to their performance and find a way to improve.

Photo: Bill Wippert
Video: Miller
In the three games that followed, Miller certainly walked the talk and was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week for his efforts.  He led the Sabres to three straight wins by posting a 0.67 goals against average and a .976 save percentage, stopping 83 of the 85 shots he faced on the week.  He also registered two shutouts, backstopping Buffalo to a pair of 2-0 wins – at Montreal on Tuesday and against New Jersey on Saturday.

“It’s nice this time of year to have a little stretch where you’re recognized like that, but I guess it kind of depends on the way we’ve been playing as a team, too.  Really paying attention to detail, I think we have good emotion in the game and I think that’s exactly what we need this time of year,” Miller said.

The reigning Vezina Trophy winner now has five shutouts on the season, which ties his career-high and marks the third straight year he’s pitched five shutouts.  In the last six games, Miller has guided Buffalo to a 4-1-1 record while registering a 1.50 goals against average and a .949 save percentage.

“I feel like I’ve been in the play a lot more, able to get in the flow of it. Like I said, it has a lot more to do with the attention to detail around me,” Miller said of his recent play.  “Right now, I’m trying to dictate the play and trying to force guys to do things they don’t want to do, and I’ve got the help of my ‘D’ corps and my forwards, so it’s good.”

Leopold adds illness to injury: It was revealed just prior to Saturday night’s game against New Jersey that Jordan Leopold, the team’s top-scoring defenseman, had suffered a hand injury during the previous night’s game and would miss at least the remainder of the regular season.

It always is difficult talking like this about a player when you say ‘fill in, replace and hopefully someone steps up and does the job’ because you want everybody in the locker room, the guys who have played a big role in the season, to be there at the end. He’s got to get healthy and hopefully be an asset to us.” - Ryan Miller on the injury to Jordan Leopold
Leopold was scheduled to visit a hand specialist on Monday to further evaluate the extent of the injury, but was unable to make the appointment after coming down with the flu.

“He had the flu, so he couldn’t see the doctor today, so now that got delayed,” Lindy Ruff said.  “We know his hand is going to have to be dealt with, it’s just going to push it back a few days, which is going to make it tough.”

Leopold’s absence creates a void on the blue line as the 30-year-old leads the Sabres in average time on ice per game.  It also provides an opportunity for other defensemen to fill the role, according to Leopold's usual defense partner, Steve Montador.

“He’s an all-around great defenseman and somebody that we relied on in a lot of different situations, so as we’ve gone through injuries throughout the year before, it just gives other guys an opportunity to fill in the spots where he was so good at,” Montador said.

“It’s unfortunate, but it’s kind of the way hockey goes sometimes,” Miller added.  “You lose Jordan who’s been solid on the back-end, but also been throwing up some points.  We’re going to have to adjust a little bit and see who can step up in that role.  I think we have a lot of guys who are capable of it.  It always is difficult talking like this about a player when you say ‘fill in, replace and hopefully someone steps up and does the job’ because you want everybody in the locker room, the guys who have played a big role in the season, to be there at the end.  He’s got to get healthy and hopefully be an asset to us.” 

Roster Shuffle: With Leopold expected to be sidelined for an extended period of time, defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani was recalled from Portland (AHL) and practiced with the Sabres on Monday.  Gragnani has appeared in three games with Buffalo already this season, averaging 13:32 of ice time in those games.  He also ranks second on the Pirates in scoring this season with 60 points (12-48-60) in 63 games. 

Gragnani
Gragnani is currently the seventh defenseman on the roster but also has the ability to play forward, which played into the decision to call him up, according to Ruff.

“We’ve looked at our defense, and it’s easier to have an extra defenseman here.  (Gragnani) has played some forward, so we’ve talked about that,” Ruff said.

Mark Mancari also practiced with the Sabres on Monday.  He had been returned to Portland prior to Saturday night’s game, but Ruff informed the media today that Mancari had been brought back under emergency conditions because Mike Grier aggravated his knee on Saturday and did not practice Monday.  However, Ruff does not expect Grier to miss Tuesday’s game at Toronto.

“(Grier) is doing ok, we just decided to give him an extra day.  He’s a little sore but I don’t expect it to be anything that will keep him away from playing,” Ruff said.

Nathan Gerbe missed Monday’s practice due to a family reason, but will re-join the team tonight when they travel to Toronto. 

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