InGoal Update: Miller finally rests but Sabres don’t trust Lalime
… Plus Devils’ Martin Brodeur on skates and IR; Robin Lehner’s yo-yo ends on the Senators bench (again); Marlies low on goalies after Jussi Rynnas breaks finger in practice; and more in the Feb. 16 Daily Update.
Ryan Miller finally got a night off from the Sabres on Tuesday, but not before his streak of 31 consecutive starts ended in a heated exchange with the Buffalo media, and not in favor of a rare start for out-of-favor veteran backup Patrick Lalime.
For Miller, who was still slated to play in the second half of back-to-back games Wednesday against Toronto, it was a much needed break after playing every game since Nov. 26, an impressive 18-9-3 stretch of consecutive games that was the NHL’s longest this season, but ended with seven goals on 26 shots in an overtime loss to the Islanders on Sunday. That was followed by a testy back and forth with a couple of Buffalo News writers that has since been detailed by several outlets and posted on the newspaper’s website.
A day later, as he prepared to finally take a break, Miller intimated to the Buffalo News the streak had worn on him:
“I’m not going to be perfect every time and I’m not going to handle it perfectly,” Miller, who also posted a below average 2.85 goals against and mediocre .900 save percentage during that stretch, said after practice Monday. “I’m not a machine and that’s how it goes. But I’m going to come and do my job. I’m always going to try and be the guy working towards winning the game. It is what it is. It’s a tough situation if you let it become too much. There is a wear and tear to that. With the schedule moving forward, it’s natural we have to build in breaks. [The streak] wasn’t quite what we set out to do. But when I started the year with some injuries, it kind of threw a wrench into that and Lindy wanted to get me rolling. Then it kind of got a little bit long so we’re going to have to make a plan to make sure that mentally and physically I’m where I need to be.”
Part of the problem is having an option. Instead of giving Lalime his first start since Nov. 20 – and a shot at his first win since March last season – the Sabres called up Jhonas Enroth from Portland of the AHL for Tuesday night’s game in Montreal. Enroth, who was called up earlier this season to fill in for an injured Miller, responded by winning a 10-round shootout with Canadiens’ No.1 Carey Price (video below) despite getting beat by the first two, and becoming the first goalie in NHL history to post his first three victories in the post-game skills competition.
“I’m pretty good at shootouts but the first three wins in the NHL is pretty unique,” Enroth, who made 17 of his 32 saves while the Sabres were being outshot 18-7 in the first period, told reporters after the game.
As for Lalime, it appears coach Lindy Ruff doesn’t have any faith left in his aging backup, who hasn’t played since a horrific puck handling gaffe led to an easy winning goal against Tampa Bay back in November (video below). Ruff hinted to the Buffalo News that Lalime may be headed to the AHL on a conditioning stint, but also stressed there was no firm plan in place for Enroth, a smallish Swedish stopper the Sabres took in the second round, 46th overall, of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft:
“Our plan was to get Jhonas ready to play in the NHL. He’s been down in Portland, had his ups and downs, but when he’s been called up on to play, he’s held himself real well. We look at this as an opportunity to take a look at him,” said Ruff. “In Pat’s case, we’ve got him in a tough spot because he hasn’t played.”
Someone other than Miller will have to play a few games, though. Buffalo just started a stretch of seven games in 12 days, and starts March with eight contests in just 13 nights. Miller, who has battled knee and hip trouble since training camp, has a 2.78 goals-against average — which would be his career-worst — and .909 save percentage so far, well off the career-best 2.22 and .929 he posted last season to win the Vezina Trophy after a spectacular silver medal performance the USA at the 2010 Olympics.
“I’m not going to be perfect and I’m certainly judged at a higher standard now,” Miller said. “You’re going to go through stretches. You’re going to have bad games. You’re going to have games that just don’t go your way, games where you can’t do anything right and you still win. I’m going to just shake it off and be a veteran player.”
Goaltending shuffle continues in Ottawa, New York
Ottawa rookie Robin Lehner was widely expected to start Tuesday’s game against the New York Islanders after making an emergency trip to the AHL as a fill in starter Sunday. After all, Senators coach Cory Clouston told reporters he was alternating with Brian Elliott until one got on a roll. But unknown to Lehner as he went from Edmonton to Ottawa to Glen Falls, New York (home of the Adirondack Phantoms) and back to Ottawa, Elliott’s underwhelming win over the Oilers was enough to constitute that roll.
So the 19-year-old Lehner, who told InGoal Magazine the uncertainty of five trips back and forth trips from the AHL was making it hard for him to perform at his best, made the nearly five hour trip back to Ottawat only to watch again as Elliott was beaten three times on 28 shots and on both shootout attempts in a 4-3 loss to the Islanders on Tuesday.
“We don’t have another goalie on a contract,” Clouston said of Lehner’s up-and-down season. “We don’t have a choice.”
They could sign Barry Brust, who is under contract only to their AHL affiliate in Binghamton, but instead it seems the Senators are preparing for soon-to-be free agent Pascal Leclaire, who skated Monday and could be sent soon to the minors on a conditioning stint.
As for Lehner, at least he’s got things in perspective, and he knows how to entertain the media:
“I’m not up here right now to turn this team around,” Lehner told the Ottawa Sun. “That’s not what they are thinking. I’m trying to prove myself everyday to play. If I don’t, I don’t. It’s nice for me. I played a lot more than I expected up here for the season already. If they want to play me, they know where to find me. If they don’t, I’ll just practise.”
As for calling the Adirondack fans dumb after his 4-3 win against the Phantoms on Sunday, Lehner had a good explanation:
“I’m Swedish. Dumb has another meaning to me,” he told The Sun. “It doesn’t mean idiot. I don’t know … I just thought the fans were something else. Guy has this big cone, feels like he’s right beside, me screaming in my ear. It’d be awesome if you could put our goalie coach up there with that cone. He could give me descriptions all game. Say what I can do.”
For now that includes staying talkative:
“I say what I think. Sometimes maybe I will be a little bit robotic when they tell me to, but get me in the right moments and you get your article. It all depends on my mood. If I had a good sleep or not. A good breakfast. A good practice.”
And speaking of strange goaltending decisions, the Islanders started Nathan Lawson as he came off injured reserve for a Jan. 21 MCL sprain to post his first NHL win, while sending Mikko Koskinen back to AHL Bridgeport. All of which indicates they have no serious plans for Al Montoya, whose only appearance since being acquired in a trade was in relief of Koskinen in Sunday’s win over Buffalo.
One-timers from around Goaltending World (Wide Web):
~ The Toronto Marlies have gone from a goaltending glut to a shortage of stoppers after big Finnish prospect Jussi Rynnas, who is just three years removed from the beer leagues, broke his finger in practice on Monday, less than a week after an elevated heartbeat forced Jonas Gustavsson out of a game and into the doctor’s office for minor heart surgery. That left Ben Scrivens, who was called up from ECHL Reading after Gustavsson went down, to make 34 saves in a crucial 2-1 win over Manitoba on Tuesday, while University of Manitoba Bisons netminder Steve Christie watched as his backup after signing an emergency amateur tryout contract. With Rynnas expected to miss four weeks, the Marlies have called up Jase Weslosky from the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads, though Gustavsson could be back by next week.
“I think a lot of teams, when you bring your goalie in from the East Coast, there’s some trepidation and you’re nervous about it,” coach Dallas Eakins told the Canadian Press of Scrivens taking over starting duties. “But we’re not nervous at all with Bennie in there. Our guys have great confidence in him and he showed again tonight that he’s a real good prospect.”
In the meantime, ex-Marlie James Reimer continued to impress with the Maple Leafs, including this late game saver Tuesday:
~ The New Jersey Devils put Martin Brodeur on the injured reserve retroactive to a knee injury suffered back on Feb. 6, but the Devils’ legend was back on the ice skating on his own Tuesday. Brodeur has missed three games since suffering what he later revealed was a sprained medical collateral ligament, though the Devils have won all three behind backup Johan Hedberg.
Brodeur could be back as early as this weekend, and told NorthJersey.com he doesn’t think the injury is serious:
“I stopped limping maybe two days after I got hurt, but it’s just some of the things that position-wise for the goalie position as far as butterfly and stuff like that, it’s just a little too tender and pulling too much. But I’m going forward every day. If I wasn’t a goalie, I think it would be different to get back. It’s just time. It could be maybe three or four days or it could be another week. I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s something that could be a lot longer. But I can’t pinpoint what I’m going to be able to do and what they’re going to want me to do when I come back, too.”