After Miller allowed the gold medal-winning goal to Canada’s Sidney Crosby(notes) at the end of an otherwise brilliant tournament, the Sabres goalie is expected to return to NHL action Wednesday with a challenging task against Ovechkin and the explosive, NHL-leading Washington Capitals.
Miller went 5-1 with a 1.35 goals-against average in Vancouver, earning tournament MVP honors even after Crosby beat him in overtime Sunday to give Canada a 3-2 victory.
When the Sabres played at Pittsburgh in Crosby’s home rink Tuesday, Miller got the night off but received an even bigger ovation than the Penguins star in pregame introductions.
“I’m a little spaced from traveling, the time change,” Miller said. “We were up there for two weeks and everything’s thrown off jut a bit. … I’ll get my rest but there’s not much of a choice. We’ve got to keep playing.”
The Sabres (33-19-9) also need to get back to winning after going 1-5-2 since the start of February and 3-8-3 in their last 14 games. They’ve slipped one point behind Ottawa for the top spot in the Northeast Division.
“Maybe mentally it’s a little more draining than a usual regular season game,” Lydman said. “But you can’t blame it on the break, they had some guys who played in the tournament, too.”
“It gives you more motivation,” Ovechkin said. “It’s going to be a fresh start, new start for us in the second half of the season.”
The two-time reigning league MVP leads the NHL with 89 points and is hoping to lead Washington (41-13-8) to a better result in the postseason, and the Capitals emerge from the Olympic break in great shape with an 11-point cushion atop the Eastern Conference.
They lost their final three games before the break after a 14-game winning streak, but they’re still 17-2-2 in their last 21.
“We want to be playing as well as we can when we hit the playoffs,” forward Brooks Laich(notes) said. “The next 20 games are going to be used to iron out how we’re going to play, and identify our strengths and our weaknesses, and then we want to have momentum going into the playoffs.”
There are few concerns about Washington’s league-leading offense, which averages nearly four goals per game, but the Capitals may have some doubts defensively after allowing a total of 16 goals in their three losses before the break, all on the road.
“You start scoring goals, and you get so hungry scoring goals that you forget about the other end of the ice,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Some uncertainty remains regarding the team’s goaltending situation. Presumptive starter Semyon Varlamov(notes) allowed six goals last month in his lone start following a two-month absence due to injuries, while Jose Theodore(notes) is 10-0-2 in his last 12 starts.
Varlamov blanked the Sabres on Nov. 25 with 25 saves in a 2-0 win.
Miller is 10-5-0 with a 2.59 career GAA against Washington. He stopped 35 shots in Buffalo’s 3-0 win Dec. 9 in the Capitals’ most recent visit to HSBC Arena.
Blog Coverage from SB Nation
Tom Poti D