Ryan Miller’s first shutout with the St. Louis Blues wowed his coach and teammates.
It’s a feeling the Buffalo Sabres used to know well.
Miller, however, is not expected to start Thursday night with Brian Elliott set to get the nod when the Blues host the Sabres.
The star goalie stopped 31 shots and kept the net empty in a shootout Tuesday in a 1-0 victory over Philadelphia. Miller recorded his first shutout since March, 21, 2012, with Buffalo.
"It’s been awhile since I had a shutout so it felt good to finish the job and keep building the right way towards the playoffs," Miller said.
Miller is 10-3-1 with a 2.01 goals-against average and .920 save percentage since the Sabres (21-45-9) traded him March 1 along with Steve Ott for goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier and two draft picks.
St. Louis (51-17-7) won’t be welcoming any of its former players back since Halak was traded by Buffalo to Washington and Stewart is out with a high ankle sprain.
Miller also won’t face his former team since Hitchcock has decided to turn to Elliott, who is 8-1-0 with a 2.08 GAA in nine home starts this season. Elliott is 8-0-2 with a 1.67 GAA versus the Sabres.
"We’ve talked to both goalies. They know that there’s going to be a schedule," Hitchcock said. "We still have some flexibility based on the opponent and where we are standings-wise, but we want to make sure that both guys get what they need."
Miller didn’t seem to mind since his voice cracked at times when the trade was announced. He is Buffalo’s franchise leader with 284 victories and 540 games.
"This year, I am pretty fresh leaving that situation so maybe it’s a nice little break and get Ells in there and he’s going to kick some pucks out," Miller said, "and hopefully I’ll maybe see some of the boys for dinner or see them around the rink or something, catch up and see how they’re doing."
St. Louis leads Colorado by seven points for the Central Division title and is chasing Boston in the Presidents’ Trophy race.
Buffalo, in contrast, continues to rebuild with young players. One of them is rookie Nathan Lieuwen, who made his third start and earned his first victory with 33 saves Tuesday in a 3-2 shootout win over New Jersey.
"The one word that Teddy (coach Ted Nolan) keeps using is compete," Lieuwen said. "I just went out there and competed. Good things happened."
Tyler Ennis scored twice, with Drew Stafford assisting both times as the Sabres ended an 0-3-1 slide.
Brenden Morrow scored twice past Miller and Stewart had two assists for the Blues in a 4-1 victory at Buffalo on Nov. 19. St. Louis has won 13 of the last 15 meetings.
Ott has two points in 16 games with the Blues after he had 20 in 59 for the Sabres. He has gone eight straight games without one.
"We’ll see what he comes up with," St. Louis center Derek Roy said of Ott facing his former team. "But every game he’s got something and every game he’s running his mouth so that gets the bench fired up and it’s good for us."