Well-trav­eled Miller feels at home in the net again

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - HELENE EL­LIOTT helene.el­liott@la­times.com Twit­ter: @he­le­nenothe­len

When young Bodhi Miller would ask where his daddy was, Ryan Miller too of­ten would have to say — via FaceTime — that he was play­ing hockey for the Canucks and prom­ise that they’d be to­gether soon. But be­tween Van­cou­ver’s sched­ule and the work com­mit­ments in Los An­ge­les of Miller’s wife, ac­tress Noureen DeWulf, Miller might not see Bodhi for three weeks at a time. That was an eter­nity for a lit­tle boy and a fa­ther who loved his sport and his fam­ily and didn’t want to cheat ei­ther of them.

The tim­ing couldn’t have been bet­ter for Miller to be­come a free agent last sum­mer, when the Ducks needed a backup goal­tender who could sup­port and push 24-year-old John Gib­son. For two years at $2 mil­lion a year, the Ducks got a re­spected goalie whose pro­fes­sion­al­ism en­abled him to rise above the bad team that was around him the past few sea­sons. By leav­ing the re­build­ing Canucks, Miller — who al­ready had a home in L.A. — got a chance to play for a team with Stan­ley Cup as­pi­ra­tions and to spend more time with his wife and son. He won’t have to press his face to the screen of a phone or tablet as fre­quently to say good­night to Bodhi, now 21⁄2.

“That’s a lot dif­fer­ent than the life we were liv­ing just last year, which wasn’t a bad life, but this is just a lit­tle bit of a step to have some bal­ance, where my wife can do the things that she’s al­ways dreamed of do­ing and I’m do­ing the same thing,” Miller said. “Play­ing in the NHL has al­ways been im­por­tant to me and I’ve al­ways con­sid­ered it a priv­i­lege, and to be able to blend that and be where we make our home is nice.”

Miller, 37, en­joyed his best sea­son in 2009-10, when he won the Vez­ina Tro­phy as the NHL’s top goalie with the Buf­falo Sabres. He helped the United States reach the gold medal game at the 2010 Van­cou­ver Olympics, where he stopped 36 shots but al­lowed Sid­ney Crosby’s goal in sud­den death to give Canada the gold.

Miller com­piled a 2.80 goals-against av­er­age and a .914 save per­cent­age last sea­son for the Canucks, who missed the play­offs for the sec­ond straight sea­son. He was sub­jected to 40 or more shots nine times, and he faced an av­er­age of 32.17 shots in 54 ap­pear­ances. He’s likely to face fewer shots thanks to the Ducks’ tighter de­fen­sive play, but he still can draw on his Van­cou­ver ex­pe­ri­ences.

“Men­tally, you try not to go to a place where you’re look­ing for excuses. It def­i­nitely ironed out a lot of things in my game, ac­tu­ally,” he said. “I think that I can bring a men­tal ap­proach al­most sim­i­lar to what I’d been telling my­self prior to games, [which] was just be­ing very sim­ple and di­rect: I have a job and stop the puck, and there’s no excuses about what’s hap­pen­ing at any mo­ment. And the kind of break­downs you see in the NHL are go­ing to hap­pen on any team, and you have to be ready and pre­pared to han­dle that sit­u­a­tion no mat­ter where you’re at.

“I think for me it was a les­son in hu­mil­ity and just be­ing calm, pa­tient and go­ing out there to play a hockey game and not to have an ex­pec­ta­tion any which way. I al­ways thought I could have an im­pact on the game if I put my­self in the right mind-set, and that’s some­thing I ac­tu­ally hope to con­tinue.”

Coach Randy Car­lyle wouldn’t say how many starts he will give Miller. Car­lyle has some ideas for his goalie sched­ule but will let per­for­mance dic­tate his choices.

“We just feel that we’re com­fort­able with the ac­qui­si­tion of Ryan Miller and where he’s played and how he’s played in the league and how much of a men­tor or how much of a No. 1 goalie he can be for our group,” Car­lyle said.

Team cap­tain Ryan Get­zlaf said the Ducks are Gib­son’s team, but he thinks Miller can help Gib­son carry that bur­den.

“The whole men­tal­ity is to push Gibby and make sure that Gibby has some­one he can lean on, talk to,” Get­zlaf said. “Miller has been in this league for a long time and he’s proven him­self. Ul­ti­mately what it’s about is hav­ing a goal­tender in there ev­ery night that gives us a chance.”

Miller be­gan skat­ing with his new team­mates last week and was im­pressed with their drive and de­sire.

“You get the sense that they re­ally feel like they’re close to do­ing some­thing spe­cial. They seem mo­ti­vated,” he said. He has a sim­i­lar mo­ti­va­tion to work along­side Gib­son for the bet­ter­ment of both goalies.

“It takes the whole team to ac­com­plish some­thing, and I’m go­ing to be sup­port­ive and I hope that we have a friend­ship that could play out here,” Miller said.

“We’re just get­ting to know each other, but hope­fully it turns into some­thing where we gen­uinely feel good about push­ing each other. But also, when the other guy does well, I want it to be gen­uine. I want him to have suc­cess be­cause ul­ti­mately his suc­cess is go­ing to be the team’s suc­cess, and if I have suc­cess on the ice, the team is go­ing to do well also.”

Harry How Getty Images

RYAN MILLER, a 14-year vet­eran, joined the Ducks af­ter spend­ing three sea­sons with the Canucks.

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