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article imageNHL: Sabres’ Ryan Miller stymies Leafs Again Special

By Aman Dhanoa     Sep 24, 2011 in Sports
Toronto - In what resembled a regular season game, the visiting Buffalo Sabres led by the great goaltending of Ryan Miller were able to frustrate the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night.
The Sabres needed a desperate game saving stop by the Miller, dubbed the 'Leaf Killer' by many, to squeak out a 2-1 preseason win at the Air Canada Centre. The Buffalo netminder made 33 saves to earn the win, while Leafs goalie James Reimer was almost as sharp and registered 32 saves between the pipes. Carey Tropp and Jason Pominville scored for the Sabres while Phil Kessel replied for the Leafs.
Defenceman John-Michael Liles is one of the new additions to the team and admits that there is still a learning curve for many players and that it will take time to build chemistry.
“I think it’s definitely a learning process right now…I think each and every time we’re out there – whether it’s practice or a game we feel a little more comfortable with each other. Unfortunately, I could not capitalize late in the game tonight, but it’s a preseason game and hopefully we’ll get our kinks worked out the rest of training camp.”
Liles also thought Miller was in regular season form but his team could have made it more difficult for the Sabres goalie. Liles nearly set up the game-tying goal with just over seven minutes left when his centering pass hit a skate and came to Joffrey Lupul in front of the net. The Leafs forward swatted the puck right into the glove of Miller who fell onto his back in desperation to make the save.
“(Miller) made some good saves for them. He’s a good goaltender, you need to get traffic in front of him…and he made some key saves. It’s something you have to focus on each and every game but we’ll continue to try and do those things and try to get some traffic in front of him.”
Reimer is coming off an impressive rookie season but admitted that he still inspired to play better when playing against the game’s best goaltenders like Miller.
“Whenever you play high quality goaltenders you want to up your game,” said Reimer. “I’d like to think I’m a pretty good goalie but I know I got a lot to learn and I can get a lot better over this year and the years to come. Anytime I can look across the ice and see a world-class goalie like Miller or (Martin) Brodeur – you go down the list – it inspires you and gives you a little extra jump to see if you can beat them.”
Centre Tim Connolly was playing his old team for the first time after he left the Sabres in the offseason to sign with the Leafs. He spent eight seasons playing in Buffalo, but admitted the game didn’t feel any different for him.
“To be honest with you it felt like another game,” said the former Sabre. “I don’t know if it’s exhibition or what but there wasn’t a lot of talking out there between me and their team. So I was just trying to go out there and try winning a game – they came out on top this time.”
“I just take it one day at a time. I’m happy to be here – it’s exciting to be a Leaf. There’s a lot of excitement in the city…it’s a historic franchise. It’s pretty cool to be part of it right now, great group of young guys.”
Gardiner Making a Statement
As training camp enters its second week, the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup is starting to look more and more like the opening day roster. However, there are still a couple of spots that are undecided and rookie defenceman Jake Gardiner continues to make noise in training camp. He has impressed with both his speed and size and has Head Coach Ron Wilson questioning his defence pairings to open the season.
“Well he’s been a lot better than I expected him to be. In the rookie games he was a little tentative but his confidence is really growing,” said Wilson.
"I saw some of these things last year with the Marlies, but that kid can really skate and it gets him out of a lot of danger. And his confidence is growing so he’s really putting heat on the other defencemen for sure.”
Gardiner was the leading player in ice time for both teams after two periods and finished with 21:32. Wilson also selected him to be on the ice in the closing seconds and help his team score an equalizer – a huge confident boost for the young the defenceman who was named the game’s third star.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Gardiner of being on the ice late in the game. “Liles is a good player for that too and it’s nice to be that second guy. If we need a goal I’d be out there and join the play and try to get a goal for our team.”
Liles continues to be impressed with Gardiner and how skilled he is despite only participating in his first NHL training camp.
“He’s had a tremendous camp and a great young defenceman,” said Liles. “He moves his feet well, the puck well, great first pass and always has his head up and a smart player. He has a tremendous future in front of him for sure.”
Gardiner admits he is still adjusting to the NHL game but is doing everything he can to convince Wilson that he belongs on the opening day roster.
“Definitely the speed and size,” noted Gardiner discussing the difference between the minors and the NHL. “Everyone is a lot more patient with the puck and so much smarter too.”
“I want to make the team, that’s been my goal from the beginning. I’ve been playing well but there’s a lot of good defencemen here and I’m just going to see what happens.”
This article was originally published on Oye! Times
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