Sabres’ Miller questionable for 2-game road trip

Posted April 01, 2011, at 4:53 p.m.
Last modified April 01, 2011, at 5:36 p.m.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres might have to continue their late-season playoff push without injured goalie Ryan Miller.

Coach Lindy Ruff announced that while Miller has been cleared to travel with the team Friday, it’s uncertain whether the starter will play at Washington on Saturday or the following day at Carolina.

“He’s doing OK. Still day to day,” Ruff said. “It’ll depend on where he’s at tomorrow.”

Miller missed practice Friday and is still recovering from what the team is strictly referring to as an upper body injury.

Last year’s Vezina Trophy winner has not been seen with the team since a 4-3 loss at Toronto on Tuesday. It was a game he finished despite taking a hard shot high off the chest in the third. Three days earlier, Miller was also struck in the mask by a shot from Brian Rolston in a 2-0 win over New Jersey.

Ruff continued to be tightlipped in discussing the nature of the injury. He declined to say whether Miller has any doctor appointments scheduled or has been tested for a concussion. Ruff did express relief in saying Miller’s injury is short term.

“That’s the positive thing that we’re not looking at anything long term here,” Ruff said.

It’s a crucial road trip for a team that’s gone 25-11-5 since Dec. 28 to climb into playoff contention. With five games left, seventh-place Buffalo (39-29-9) opens the weekend tied with the Rangers at 87 points. The Sabres have the tie-breaking edge on New York. Both teams are three points ahead of ninth-place Carolina.

If Miller’s unavailable, Jhonas Enroth is expected to start. He earned his first career shutout, with 23 saves in a 1-0 win over the Rangers, on Wednesday.

“Jhonas played unbelievable last game for us, but you do notice when Millsy’s out of the lineup,” defenseman Tyler Myers said. “He’s proved to be one of the best goaltenders in the world, and he’s a key part of our group. It’s nice to know that it’s not long term, and he’ll be back when he’s ready.”

Like the Sabres, Miller has rebounded from a slow start. He’s been particularly sharp in going 9-4-3 in his past 16 games, including a stretch last week in which he allowed two goals in three wins, with two shutouts.

Enroth is looking forward to the opportunity, though he hasn’t been informed as to whether he’ll start Saturday.

“It’s a big weekend for us, so I’m real excited,” said Enroth, who has a 6-2-1 record with Buffalo after opening this season in the minors. “I want to play, and playing back to back is always fun.”

Enroth’s shutout came with his parents watching, the first time they’ve seen him play an NHL game in person. They won’t be around this weekend, though, after traveling back home to Sweden on Friday.

Ruff ruled out forward Jochen Hecht this weekend, while forward Mike Grier is doubtful. Hecht has been bothered by a nagging upper body injury that’s forced him to miss 10 of the past 14. Grier was limited in practice Friday and has missed the past two with a knee injury.

Pacioretty skates briefly

BROSSARD, Quebec — Montreal’s Max Pacioretty went for a short skate on his own before the Canadiens practice on Friday, his first since suffering a concussion.

He suffered a severe concussion and a fractured vertebra after a hit from Boston’s Zdeno Chara on March 8. Pacioretty then collided with a padded stanchion supporting a glass partition at the Bell Center.

Coach Jacques Martin said the short skate is the start of his rehabilitation.

Pacioretty’s agent Alex Schall said this week he does not expect him to be ready to play until training camp. Martin said there was no change in the team’s assessment that he could resume practicing as early as mid-April.

The injury and the NHL’s failure to suspend Chara sparked a heated debate over hits to the head.

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