RALEIGH, N.C. — Ryan Miller says he checks in with backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth on a daily basis just to see how he’s doing. Then he walks by him on his way to the Buffalo Sabres’ net.
Miller made his 14th straight start Tuesday during a 4-3 loss to Carolina, a streak that has reached a full month. Enroth last started Feb. 5 during a loss in Ottawa.
It’s easy to see why Miller keeps getting the call. He had a 2.42 goals-against average and .927 save percentage during the first 13 games of the run while going 6-6-1.
“I feel fine,” said Miller, who acknowledged the schedule can be difficult. “I’m just trying to maintain. It’s tough on everybody. You just have to get your rest and recover and go back out.
“It’s funny, it kind of feels like playoffs, honestly. It’s almost every other day. You grind it out. You feel tired, but you’re in it so you kind of accept it. You just do it. That’s just kind of where I’m trying to get my head.”
The Sabres took Monday off, which allowed Miller to get a leg massage to work out the kinks from back-to-back starts over the weekend.
“You try and make them into something where you can just reset and get your body into a good place,” he said of off days. “After back-to-back games, I just kind of felt like my legs were going. I could feel it, especially the second and third period. It’s been kind of a long stretch where I’m trying to find time to maintain.”
While it’s possible Enroth could start Thursday in New Jersey, the Sabres’ schedule breakdown also makes it possible Miller’s streak could continue well into mid-March or longer. They have two days off after facing the Devils, then have three days off next week. The Sabres’ only remaining back-to-back games are March 16-17, April 13-14 and April 19-20.
If Miller’s run continues, he says he’ll just keep Enroth engaged.
“I’ve been trying to put myself in his position, just trying to stay positive, talk to him, see what’s going on in his life and make sure we’re always checking in day to day,” Miller said. “We’re talking about situations when we can, and I’m trying to keep him engaged in that kind of stuff. I feel for him.
“He gets out there and he battles, and I know next time he’s in the net he’s going to do the same thing.”
I hope he can get a little bit of puck luck on his side because I think he’s always trying to do the right things. He seems to be working pretty hard in practice. I know he wants to win, wants to compete, so I’m just trying to be there and help him the best I can.”
Patrick Kaleta remains unapologetic about boarding the New York Rangers’ Brad Richards, who sat out Tuesday’s game against the Flyers with soreness from the hit. The major penalty and resulting five-game suspension, which began against the Hurricanes, has been roundly criticized in the hockey world.
“A lot of people are calling me scumbags, dirty hockey player, but I play hard, I play on the edge,” Kaleta said in PNC Center. “It doesn’t define me as a person. It defines one play that could be controversial either way. That’s the way it is. That’s the way being in the so-called spotlight works, and you deal with it.
“They can call me whatever the heck they want to call me. People know me as a person. I know you guys, people in Buffalo see me as a hockey player and how I’ve grown and what I’m like on and off the ice.”
Kaleta has been suspended three times in his career, including a pair of sitdowns by Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s vice president of player safety. Kaleta said there was no warning about future discipline.
“It didn’t really come up, but I don’t like talking to him,” Kaleta said of phone hearings. “Even though some may say you have no points, blah blah blah, but I’ve improved as a hockey player and I’ve gotten smarter and I’ve gotten a better mind-set on and off the ice. I know what I can do to help this team, and hopefully these next five games come with wins, they go by fast and I’m back out there blocking shots and feeling a little beat up.”
Thomas Vanek returned after missing two games with an upper-body injury suffered Thursday in Florida.
“It just didn’t get any better,” said the Sabres’ leading scorer. “Now I feel at the point where I can deal with the pain and be able to play.”
He resumed his role as the left winger on the top line with center Cody Hodgson and right wing Jason Pominville. Marcus Foligno, who had filled in for Vanek, skated with Kevin Porter and Brian Flynn.
Defenseman T.J. Brennan, who’d been scratched for five straight, replaced healthy Adam Pardy on the blue line.