BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -As odd as it sounds, Ryan Miller believes his nagging injuries this month have made him better.
Miller returned from a two-game absence because of a minor groin injury to make 35 saves in the Buffalo Sabres' 3-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night.
Earlier this month, Miller was sidelined for five straight games because of a hip problem originally sustained during the preseason. Since coming back, he's 4-1-0.
``It's calmed my game down a little bit,' said Miller, 23-8-0 with a 2.19 goals-against average and .931 save percentage lifetime against the Maple Leafs. ``At the start of the season I was trying to do too much, and I expected myself to be perfect every night and making big saves every night. That can't happen unless you're relaxed, and maybe these little tweaks can slow me down just enough where I can make all the right plays.'
The Sabres are 7-6-2 in Miller's 15 starts this season and 2-6-1 when backups Patrick Lalime and Jhonas Enroth are in the crease.
``Anytime you can get your starting goaltender back it's a boost,' Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. ``We all know what he means to the team. When Ryan's in there we can play a more aggressive type of game.'
With Buffalo up 2-0 after the first period, Miller single-handedly preserved the two-goal advantage through the second period. He turned aside all 15 shots the Maple Leafs sent his way in the middle frame, while the Sabres were held without a shot for a 16-minute span in the period.
``What's not to like about him,' Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta said. ``He's one, if not the best goaltender in the world. We love having him back there.'
Jordan Leopold, Thomas Vanek and Kaleta scored for Buffalo. The Sabres improved to 9-12-3, snapping a two-game losing streak and beating Toronto for the 16th time in their last 19 meetings.
Jonas Gustavsson made 25 saves for Toronto, 8-10-3 overall and winless in its last seven road games.
``It's the same ice surface,' Maple Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur said. ``We've got to figure it out because we have to win games on the road. We get down one or two and then everyone's trying to do it themselves. It's not our game to do that.'
Phil Kessel spoiled Miller's shutout bid with 3:27 left when he scored a short-handed goal after a giveaway by Leopold.
``We've been having trouble beating Miller the last few years,' Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle said. ``He's been the key to success for them.'
Buffalo struck first with a pair of power-play goals 1:45 apart in the first period to take a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Leopold opened the scoring with his sixth of the season, ripping a slap shot from the middle of the blue line past Gustavsson at 6:05 of the opening period. It was Buffalo's first shot of the game.
Vanek then gave the Sabres a two-goal edge while Buffalo was up two men, potting his ninth of the year with a slap shot from the top of the left circle.
Kaleta upped Buffalo's lead to 3-0 with a short-handed goal with 9:02 left in the third period. The Sabres' tough guy backhanded in a rebound for his third of the season after Gustavsson stopped Paul Gaustad's slap shot from the left circle.
The Maple Leafs went 0 for 6 on the power play, and have converted only three of their 42 man-advantage opportunities on the road this season.
``Our power play wasn't really very good,' Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. ``We had chances but we weren't getting the secondary chances with traffic in front. Ryan was seeing pucks.'
NOTES: Sabres C Tim Connolly missed his second straight game because of a groin injury. ... Buffalo finished its four-game homestand with a 2-2-0 mark. ... Toronto RW Mike Brown was scratched after taking a shot in the midsection during practice Wednesday. ... The Sabres have scored on their first shot in two of their last three games. ... Buffalo came in with the 28th ranked power-play unit at home after converting on only five of its 46 man-advantage opportunities (10.9 percent). The Sabres scored twice on four power-play chances.
The Associated Press News Service
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