Amer­i­can hero in Van­cover not sure to make 2014 Oly team

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - HOCKEY - By Larry Lage

AR­LING­TON, Va. — Ryan Miller was sim­ply bril­liant at the 2010 Win­ter Olympics. He put the U.S. in a po­si­tion to win sil­ver and came within a goal of gold.

The Buf­falo Sabres goal­tender was named tour­na­ment MVP af­ter mak­ing 139 saves on 147 shots over six games. Not a bad lit­tle run.

His Olympic jour­ney, how­ever, may have ended there.

Even though he’s just 33 years old, po­ten­tially in the prime of his ca­reer, there’s a chance he might not be at the Sochi Games. Miller has strug­gled to have suc­cess since the last Olympics for the Sabres, whose re­build­ing ef­forts may in­clude trad­ing him with one year left on his con­tract.

USA Hockey coaches and of­fi­cials in­vited 48 play­ers to this week’s camp be­cause of their body of work or po­ten­tial as a fu­ture Olympian, but man­age­ment has made it clear how each player per­forms for their NHL club from Oc­to­ber through De­cem­ber will be piv­otal when the 25-man ros­ter is re­vealed on New Year’s Day.

“Ryan is well aware of that,” gen­eral man­ager David Poile said Tues­day at the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals’ train­ing fa­cil­ity, as Team USA wrapped up a camp.

Miller is one of six goalies in the mix and he’s in a pack of per­haps four play­ers vy­ing for two spots be­hind Los An­ge­les Kings and Stan­ley Cup-win­ning star Jonathan Quick. “It’s wide open,” Miller ac­knowl­edged. That may be bad news for him. Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings, Craig An­der­son of the Ot­tawa Se­na­tors and Cory Sch­nei­der of the New Jersey Devils might get the other two spots as Quick’s back­ups. John Gib­son, a 20-year-old prospect, was also in­vited to this week’s camp, but isn’t ex­pected to make the team.

Miller made it clear what his goal is over the fi­nal months of 2013.

“I want to make the team,” he said. “I want to be the guy who is there stop­ping pucks in Sochi. I want to start.”

Miller started in each of the six games at the Van­cou­ver Games and the only game he didn’t fin­ish was a 6-1 rout against Fin­land in the semi­fi­nals. His run in­cluded a spec­tac­u­lar 42-save per­for­mance in a 5-3 win over Canada in the pre­lim­i­nary round.

“It was the best two weeks I’ve seen a goalie play in my life­time,” said Quick, who was the third goalie be­hind Miller and Tim Thomas in 2010.

Quick, though, has per­haps been the best goalie on the planet the past two years.

He lifted Los An­ge­les to a Stan­ley Cup cham­pi­onship in 2012 — al­low­ing an aver­age of 1.41 goals a game dur­ing the play­offs — and helped the Kings reach the 2013 Western Con­fer­ence fi­nals while giv­ing up an aver­age of fewer than two goals a game. Dur­ing each of the last two post-sea­sons, Quick had three shutouts. Quick’s time, for the Amer­i­cans, seems to be now. “What makes Quickie unique is his at­ti­tude,” Kings and U.S. team­mate Dustin Brown said. “He’ll make a save he has no busi­ness mak­ing and then he’ll flip the puck out to the dot like it was just an­other save. His quiet ar­ro­gance trick­les down and rubs off on guys.”

Miller is also rel­a­tively quiet, and has been mostly mum about the trade ru­mours swirling around him this off-sea­son, but in­sisted he doesn’t re­sent the fact he ap­pears to be on the trad­ing block.

“That’s the na­ture of sports,” Miller said. “It’s a tran­si­tional time in Buf­falo... I think it’s still a feelin­gout process about where I fit into that. I got one more year left and my in­ten­tion is to be the best I can be.

“I feel like I still have a lot of hockey left and feel like I can still play at a high level.”

The one puck Miller couldn’t stop in 2010 that haunted him for a while was Sid­ney Crosby’s wrist shot 7:40 into over­time that gave Canada the gold.

“It’s not a sore sub­ject for me, any­more, but it’s def­i­nitely bittersweet,” Miller said. “It was a lot of fun to play hockey at such a high level in a great place, where they re­spect hockey, but at the same time it wasn’t the fairy-tale end­ing. You just have to trudge on and hope for your next op­por­tu­nity.”

It will be up to Poile and his ad­vi­sory group, which in­cludes some other NHL gen­eral man­agers, to de­cide if Miller will get that chance in Rus­sia. While ev­ery spot on the team is im­por­tant, none will be more im­por­tant than who is in net.

“We got to make the right de­ci­sion,” Poile said. “Be­cause if we screw up on one guy, that could be the dif­fer­ence be­tween us win­ning and not win­ning.”

SU­SAN WALSH / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Buf­falo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (right) was bril­liant

in Van­cou­ver in 2010.

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