VANCOUVER — Ryan Miller wasn’t ready face the Buffalo Sabres last season.
After getting traded by the only NHL organization he had ever known, the veteran goalie was given the choice by the St. Louis Blues of facing his old team or watching the from the bench when the clubs met in early April.
Miller chose the latter and instead started against the Philadelphia Flyers two days earlier.
Now a member of the Vancouver Canucks, the 34-year-old will finally suit up against the franchise that drafted him when the Sabres visit Rogers Arena on Friday night.
“I’ll pay special attention not to pass the puck towards the Buffalo symbol,” Miller joked after Thursday’s practice. “It’s going to be nice to see some of the faces over there. But part of hockey is having fun competing against your friends, former teammates, colleagues.
“This is a chance to play against a team and an organization that does mean a lot to me.”
A fifth-round pick back in 1999, Miller was the face of the Sabres for nine seasons and helped the team to the Eastern Conference final in both 2006 and 2007.
“A lot things to be proud of coming out of Buffalo,” said Miller, who signed with the Canucks as a free agent in July. “Disappointed we didn’t achieve our goals there. We were close a couple times and pushing towards a Stanley Cup and we fell short and that’s obviously frustrating.
“The group of guys I played with, that was a lot of fun.”
Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin, whose team is coming off a disappointing 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, said the Canucks want to make sure their netminder has a memorable night.
“He spent a lot of years in Buffalo,” said Sedin. “For anyone coming back and playing their former team, even if it’s at home here, I’m sure it’s a special night for him. He’s been so good for us so we’ve got to help him as much as we can.”
The Sabres have fallen on hard times in recent years and sit at the bottom of the NHL standings heading into Thursday’s action.
Miller said he keeps in touch with some people in the organization and feels the pain of a team in full rebuild mode.
“It’s frustrating to not get the results when you put in the hard work. I know a lot of those guys on that team are proud and they work hard,” he said. “When you’re not getting the results and people are talking about it there’s that place where you can kind of go where you can get numb and you don’t get as emotionally charged … or you remind yourself (why you) play.
“I think last year I was getting a little bit numb for a stretch, but I reminded myself why I like to play and got re-energized by the challenge of just going out to play. I hope they find that energy and continue to play hard because they have a lot of talent on that team.”
Miller has found plenty of success so far this season with Vancouver, recording 23 of his team’s 26 wins, and set a personal shutout streak of 200 minutes 45 seconds as the Canucks continue to battle for a Western Conference playoff spot.
“I identified myself for so long as a Sabre,” said Miller. “It’s going to be a little bit strange, but I have aligned myself with this organization and the goals we have here. I identify myself now as proud to be a Canuck and working toward our goals here.”
Note: With a couple of injuries up front, the Canucks recalled forward Ronalds Kenins from the AHL’s Utica Comets on Thursday.