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Sunday Daily Puck: Miller Time?

Noel Baldwin

Noel Baldwin

Noel Baldwin covers the Phoenix Coyotes and writes about fantasy hockey for Rotowire.

Around the Rink

The Buffalo Sabres are probably headed toward a last place finish in the NHL this year. With just 29 points in 43 games and a minus-45 goal differential the team does not have a lot going for it. The team’s leading scorer, Cody Hodgson, has 19 points – good for a tie for 194th in the NHL. New GM Tim Murray, who took over on January 9, will now apparently have to contend with young prospect Mikhail Grigorenko refusing to report to the Quebec Ramparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as well. Welcome to job, Tim!

Yet, the Sabres will be one of the most interesting teams to watch down the stretch as they consider whether or not to trade or try to retain goaltender Ryan Miller. In the lead up the March 5 trade deadline, Miller’s name will be one of the most discussed as he has performed remarkably well so far, posting a 2.64 goals against average and .927 save percentage. That he has managed 11 wins is incredible considering the Sabres only have 12 on the season.

Who might want to make a move for Miller? Among the contenders in the East, you would have to think that Washington is not feeling too good about their triumvirate of Braden Holtby, Michal Neuvirth, and Philipp Grubauer. The Flyers have gotten more than expected from Steve Mason, but he has been steadily falling off as the season has progressed.

Out West, most teams in the playoff hunt are pretty set. Minnesota might be one candidate as they were rescued early by Josh Harding’s emergence, but his reliability will likely keep them feeling edgy as he contends with multiple sclerosis.

As an impending unrestricted free agent, it is not clear what the price would be for Miller. It could be lower than a goalie with a Vezina trophy to his credit who has been carrying a very weak team would normally bring. That could bring a surprise team into the bidding, like a Dallas, Pittsburgh, or Detroit if their incumbents struggle as the deadline nears.

The Sabres say they are still open to keeping Miller, but his status and their rebuild suggest he will be on his way somewhere else. One way or the other, new GM Tim Murray will have all of the eyes of the hockey world on him and Buffalo this winter.

Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid

Buffalo Sabres (Ryan Miller) at Washington Capitals (Braden Holtby), 3:00 PM
New York Islanders (Kevin Poulin) at Dallas Stars (Kari Lehtonen), 6:00 PM
New Jersey Devils (Martin Brodeur) at Toronto Maple Leafs (Jonathan Bernier), 7:00 PM
Philadelphia Flyers (Steve Mason) at New York Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist), 7:00 PM
Edmonton Oilers (Ilya Bryzgalov) at Chicago Blackhawks (Antti Raanta), 7:00 PM
Minnesota Wild (Darcy Kuemper) at Nashville Predators (Carter Hutton), 7:00 PM
Detroit Red Wings (Jimmy Howard) at Anaheim Ducks (Jonas Hiller), 8:00 PM

* = Confirmed

Injury News For Teams Playing Sunday

Buffalo Sabres
Drew Stafford, RW - Stafford (upper body) was placed on injured reserve Thursday. (1/9/2014)
Kevin Porter, C - Porter (leg) is expected to miss at least another week. (12/29/2013)
Tyler Myers, D - Myers was issued a three-game suspension for his hit to the head on Devils' forward Dainius Zubrus, TSN's Bob McKenzie reports. (1/6/2014)

New York Islanders
Evgeni Nabokov, G - Nabokov (lower body) traveled with the team to Denver for Friday's game against the Avalanche, but was limited to off-ice work during the Isles' morning session, Arthur Staple of Newsday reports. (1/10/2014)
Lubomir Visnovsky, D - Visnovsky (concussion) still has no timetable for a return, according to Newsday. (1/5/2014)

New Jersey Devils
Patrik Elias, LW - Elias (upper body) skated on his own Friday, Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger reports. (1/10/2014)
Peter Harrold, D - Harrold (foot) has resumed skating, Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record reports. (1/8/2014)
Jacob Josefson, C - Josefson is expected to miss a few days with a virus, Tom Gulitti of The Record reports. (1/8/2014)
Damien Brunner, C - Brunner (knee) is showing signs of improvement, but he has not resumed skating, Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger reports. (1/7/2014)

Toronto Maple Leafs
Dave Bolland, C - Bolland (ankle) continues to rehabilitate his surgically-repaired Achilles tendon and probably won't be back in a Leafs jersey until after the Olympic break, reports the Toronto Sun. (12/31/2013)

Philadelphia Flyers
Zac Rinaldo, LW - Rinaldo (ankle) was placed on injured reserve Friday morning, CSN Philly's Sarah Baicker reports. (1/10/2014)
Matt Read, RW - Read (concussion) has been placed on injured reserve. (1/10/2014)

Chicago Blackhawks
Nikolai Khabibulin, G - Khabibulin had successful surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder and will miss four-to-five months, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports. (1/7/2014)

Minnesota Wild
Jason Zucker, LW - Zucker left Thursday's win over Phoenix in the third period after he sustained a cut above the right kneecap that required four stitches, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. (1/10/2014)
Zach Parise, LW - Parise (foot) could begin skating late this week, reports the Star Tribune's Michael Russo. (1/7/2014)
Josh Harding, G - Harding (illness) has been feeling better the past few days and has returned to the ice, head coach Mike Yeo said. (1/11/2014)

Nashville Predators
Pekka Rinne, G - Rinne (hip) was cleared Friday to begin weight-bearing exercises. (1/10/2014)
Patric Hornqvist, RW - Hornqvist (lower body) will not play Saturday against the Senators, Joshua Cooper of the Tennessean reports. (1/11/2014)

Detroit Red Wings
Johan Franzen, C - Franzen (concussion) will not play in Saturday's game against the Kings, Ansar Khan of MLive.com reports. (1/10/2014)
Jonathan Ericsson, D - Ericsson (ribs) has resumed skating, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports. (1/8/2014)
Darren Helm, C - Helm (groin) will not return to the lineup for Saturday's game against the Kings, Ansar Khan of MLive.com reports. (1/10/2014)
Pavel Datsyuk, C - Datsyuk (groin) will not return to the lineup for Saturday's game against the Kings, Ansar Khan of MLive.com reports. (1/10/2014)
Jonas Gustavsson, G - Gustavsson isn't expected to return from IR during the remaining four games of the Red Wings' road trip, MLive.com's Ansar Khan reports. (1/7/2014)

Anaheim Ducks
Dustin Penner, LW - Penner (upper body) will not play Thursday against the Predators, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports. (1/9/2014)
reports. (11/21/2013)
Bryan Allen, D - Allen (lower body) was moved to injured reserve Tuesday. (1/7/2014)

Hot

James Neal, RW, Pit – There was a lot of speculation about whether Neal or teammate Chris Kunitz would make the Canadian Olympic team. Turns out that Neal was left behind and he is playing like he wants to show the decision makers that they made a mistake. Neal has six points in his past four games and is plus-8 in that span. He has been on fire since returning from a five game suspension for a knee to the head of Brad Marchand recording 16 points in 10 games. The return to health of his usual running mate Evgeny Malkin obviously makes a difference, but with 36 points in 26 games the 26 year-old Neal is having a breakout campaign.

Cam Fowler, D, Ana – Fowler is also having a breakout at age 22. With 26 points in the season’s first 46 games, he should surpass his career high 40 points pretty easily. What is equally impressive is Fowler’s plus-13 rating. He has been a consistent minus-player since arriving in the NHL and while plus/minus is not the be all and end all of player evaluation, there are many leagues that count it, so his performance this year is helping across more categories than just the offensive ones.

Michal Neuvirth, G, Was – It is not so much that Neuvirth is hot, but that he is playing. He started Thursday’s game against Toronto (making 32 saves on 34 shots for the win), which was his first game since November 22 last year. The Capitals goaltending situation is in such turmoil that if Neuvirth can show he is healthy and string together a few starts he could run away with the job. Do not forget that Neuvirth’s presence was a big reason Washington traded Semyon Varlamov, so he has been in favour in D.C. in the past.

Cold

Matt Moulson, LW, NYI – Getting traded off the wing of one of the NHL’s best setup men would hurt anyone’s production and not surprisingly that has been the case for Moulson. Prior to leaving the Islanders the 30 year-old had 9 points in 11 games. He has 18 points in 30 games since arriving in Buffalo. It has been an even greater struggle lately – over his last five games Moulson has a single point and is minus-6. Unfourtunately, he is just not as relevant anymore.

Keith Yandle, D, Pho – Lots of speculation about how the players snubbed from their respective Olympics teams would react. For Yandle, it has not been a great response. Yandle has a single point and is minus-1 since the announcement of the US roster. He had a gross minus-3 game against Minnesota on Thursday. His 28 points still rank well among the NHL’s defense leaders, but you will have ride out this rut.

Recommended Pickup

Mikkel Boedker, RW, Pho – Boedker is having the breakout the Coyotes’ probably thought was coming for a couple of years. He has already set new career highs in goals and points (with modest totals of 14 and 30 respectively) and he currently rides alongside Mike Ribeiro and Shane Doan. Perhaps more indicative that there is something positive happening that is worth another look is that Boedker will also set a new season high in shots on goal very soon. He is asserting himself this year and, at 24, there is still room for growth.