Ryan Miller left the Buffalo Sabres as their all-time leader in wins, and they certainly haven’t looked capable of getting one themselves lately.
Now with the Vancouver Canucks, Miller is expected to face his former team for the first time since being traded as the Sabres look to avoid the NHL’s longest regulation losing streak in 22 years Friday night.
Miller was a cornerstone for the Sabres for nearly a decade, setting franchise records for wins in a season (41) and overall (284) while claiming the 2010 Vezina Trophy. He also spurred runs to the 2006 and ’07 Eastern Conference finals.
He gained mainstream notoriety for backstopping the United States to the silver medal in the 2010 Olympics, earning MVP honors.
An expiring contract, however, led the Sabres to send him to St. Louis in a blockbuster trade on March 1.
"It’s going to be a little bit strange. I’m going to pay special attention not to pass the puck to the Buffalo symbol," Miller said. "It’s going to be nice to see some of the faces over there, but part of hockey is having fun competing against your friends, former teammates, colleagues. I look forward to these opportunities.
"This is a chance to play against a team and organization that does mean a lot to me."
Miller has adjusted just fine after signing with the Canucks (26-17-3) last summer. He’s 23-11-1 with a 2.33 goals-against average and five shutouts. However, he’s allowed six goals on 48 shots while losing his last two games after going 7-2-1 with a 1.40 GAA and two shutouts over his previous 10.
He made 20 saves Tuesday, when Vancouver lost 4-0 to NHL-leading Anaheim.
"I think we’re a better team than that," coach Willie Desjardins said after his team was held to 17 shots. "We’ve just got to find ways."
The Sabres (14-32-3) probably say that nearly every game, as they own the worst record in the NHL after finishing last in 2013-14.
They’re also enduring a franchise-record 13-game losing streak, and a loss to Miller would give them the longest regulation losing streak since San Jose dropped 17 straight from Jan. 4-Feb. 12, 1993.
Desjardins, though, isn’t taking Buffalo lightly.
"I think if you look past them, it’s a mistake. I don’t know why we would. We certainly shouldn’t be," Desjardins said.
The Sabres, 1-16-1 in their last 18 games, did little to strike fear in anyone Thursday, losing 3-2 at Edmonton in a battle of the two worst teams in the league.
"I think we need to stay positive and just keep approaching every game like we’re going to win the game," said Jhonas Enroth, who had 31 saves. "We can’t go into every game thinking we’re going to lose the game. We have to stay positive and still believe that we can win games."
Improved goaltending would also help. Enroth has lost eight straight starts with a 4.66 GAA, but it’s unclear if he’ll get the call on back-to-back days.
Backup Michal Neuvirth, though, has a 4.10 GAA while losing his last eight starts since returning from a lower-body injury. He’s lost both of his career visits to Vancouver while surrendering seven goals on 67 shots.
Miller sympathizes with his former team.
"When you’re not getting the results and people are talking about it, there’s that place you can go and kind of get numb and don’t get emotionally charged," he said. "Last year, I was getting a little bit numb for a stretch, but I reminded myself why I like to play and re-energized myself.
"I hope they find that energy."