With six minutes and fifty seconds left in the first period there was body contact resulting in a two minute minor penalty between left winger Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins and Vezina winning All Star goalie Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres. It was well outside the crease, and clearly none of the player on the ice from the Sabres thought it was anything exceptional as they had 47 minutes to respond, and did not do so. Ryan Miller would stay in net after the contact. In the second period he would play all twenty minutes, and surrender two more even strength goals. At the start of the third period Jhonas Enroth would take over crease duties. This is not the first time Enroth has replaced Miller in net this season.
Initially when Miller was pulled it was reported as a possible neck injury. After the game, a focused and angry looking Miller stated he had only stuck around to call Milan Lucic a particular four letter word. The next morning, it was reported that Miller had a concussion and was out, but not put on the injured reserve. This is a bit curious for a number of reasons. First and foremost is that Miller has a concussion history. We’ve all seen players who have had concussions in the past suffer a new one. The reaction from the player is immediate. It’s obvious to everyone what their chief worry is. Miller on the other hand played twenty-seven more minutes, or about an hour and fifteen minutes real time.
This alone isn’t enough to proclaim something is rotten in the state of Denmark, but let’s take a look at these other oddments, including the goalie rotation that has taken place in the Buffalo crease this season:
- The Buffalo Sabres are one of the highest spending teams in the NHL. Miller’s contract is for over six million dollars.
- The Sabres had less than $52,000 in cap space available for the year, not counting LTIR money.
- With Miller not on the LTIR, the team is seriously inhibiting their flexibility later in the year, when you note the injury riddled history of several skaters this becomes increasingly curious.
- Both Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff have made bellicose statements that bring up the question of similar behavior by their team with very little if any concern expressed for their own player.
- Terry Pegula who never seems to be at a loss for words has made no public statements.
- One major difference between placing someone on the LTIR and shorter term designations is the ability to activate them in short period of time.
- While Enroth has been announced as the goaltender for Tuesday’s game, it’s likely given the rotation, that even had their been no contact between Miller and Lucic that would have been his start anyway.
Obviously we don’t know what the inner workings of the Buffalo Brain Trust are, but one huge risk factor for leaving Miller day to day is the chances he will push himself too hard to come back. Marc Savard is like Ryan Miller prone to popping off and the mouth, and of similar age. No one can say definitively that Miller will push himself back to soon from the injury the team claims, but without setting up a firm timeline where game play is out of the question it’s impossible not to speculate on the seriousness of the issue, how seriously the medical and managerial staff take the injury that is claimed, and how much value any or all of them put on the long-term health and safety of Ryan Miller.