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Miller ready to assume regular role with Sabres

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Posted: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 12:00 am

PITTSBURGH - Team USA star Ryan Miller, never one to hide his feelings, acknowledged that, yeah, he isn’t quite over the heartbreak that accompanies losing a gold medal in overtime.

Miller won’t stew on Sunday’s loss to Team Canada at the Vancouver Olympics, however. After sitting out Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Penguins, he’s ready to resume his regular gig as the Buffalo Sabres’ starting goalie.

But if Miller, who joined the Sabres here with coach Lindy Ruff, still feels badly about allowing Sidney Crosby’s winning goal, perhaps the capacity crowd inside Mellon Arena cheered him up bit.

Miller finally one-upped Crosby, and did it on the superstar’s home ice.

The American received a rousing ovation from the 17,132 fans - one louder than the hometown and Canadian hero - during an introduction of the teams’ Olympians.

For the record, the crowd booed a clip of Crosby’s goal, too.

“It is nice that the Olympics can kind of help bring that out of the crowds here in the NHL,” Miller said Tuesday morning. “ … It would be nice to have a crowd appreciate your effort when you’re on the road.

“I think that’s what good about hockey fans,” he said. “They enjoy a good hockey game. It’s not just about one team. It’s about the sport.”

Ruff, meanwhile, has soaked in the gold medal he won as a Canadian assistant. Now he’s focused on earning a championship with the Sabres.

 “It was a tremendous thrill,” Ruff said. “The focus now is to put that aside, push forward here and try to win a Cup with our team.”

Ruff and Miller will certainly draw from their whirlwind Olympic experiences.

Miller, the backbone of a silver-medal squad, sees parallels between the Americans and his Sabres.

Team USA critics had snickered. The thought a medal was out of the question. They believed the club, filled with more role players than stars, would be overmatched.

“I think maybe early in the season some people were counting (the Sabres) out a little bit,” Miller said. “I guess that goes in line with the Olympic experience I had. People counted us out. People laughed at (general manager) Brian Burke’s choices. We found a way to get it done. We were there in the end.”

Minutes after Crosby’s clincher, Ruff consoled Miller during their postgame handshake.

“Emotionally, I knew how devastating it was going to be for him,” Ruff said. “I knew there wasn’t anything I was going to be able to say. I just wanted to let him know what a tremendous tournament he had. …

“That team just got better and better,” he said. “I just told him to be proud of himself and the way he played.”

Miller added: “At the moment, I didn’t really have a lot to say. I was really disappointed.”

Ruff had a wildly different Olympic experience than Miller. Team Canada endured absurd pressure and scrutiny from Day One. It was a gold-or-bust tournament. The Canadians felt the entire weight of a nation on their shoulders.

“I’m not going to lie,” Ruff said. “We felt it after we lost (to the Americans). We felt it going into the qualification game against Germany. We just kept talking about getting better as a team.”

Ruff said two weeks assisting a dream team with some of the hockey’s great minds has made him a better coach.

“You get to notice what they do, how they prepare for games and how they prepare for practice,” Ruff said of the superstars. “Those are all interesting traits. It’s taking away something from a tournament like that.”

Notes: Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta returned following a six-game absence (bruised foot), registering two assists. … Defenseman Andrej Sekera, who had a strong Olympics for the Slovakians, replaced Steve Montador. The Sabres also scratched forward Matt Ellis and defenseman Nathan Paetsch.

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