The Sabres will have to continue their late-season playoff push without injured goalie Ryan Miller, who did not travel with the team as it left Buffalo to open a two-game road trip.
After coach Lindy Ruff said following practice early Friday afternoon that Miller would join the team for its flight to Washington, the Sabres announced that Miller was not on the plane. The Sabres did not provide any other details except to say that the starting goalie is still listed as day to day with what the team is strictly calling an upper body injury.
The turn of events raised questions as to when Miller will be ready. The Sabres play at Washington on Saturday, followed by Carolina on Sunday.
Ruff had said that Miller was "doing OK," and didn't discount the possibility of playing this weekend. Now, that seems unlikely.
"It'll depend on where he's at tomorrow," Ruff said.
Last year's Vezina Trophy winner missed practice and has not been seen since a 4-3 loss at Toronto on Tuesday. It was a game he finished despite taking a hard shot high off the chest in the third. Three days earlier, Miller was also struck in the mask by a shot from Brian Rolston in a 2-0 win over New Jersey.
Ruff continued to be tightlipped in discussing the nature of the injury. He declined to say whether Miller has any doctor appointments scheduled, or if he'd been tested for a concussion. Ruff did express relief in saying Miller's injury is short term.
"That's the positive thing that we're not looking at anything long term here," Ruff said.
It's a crucial road trip for a team that's gone 25-11-5 since Dec. 28 to climb into playoff contention. With five games left, seventh-place Buffalo (39-29-9) opens the weekend tied with the Rangers at 87 points. The Sabres have the tie-breaking edge on New York. Both teams are three points ahead of ninth-place Carolina.
If Miller's unavailable, Jhonas Enroth is expected to start. He earned his first career shutout, with 23 saves in a 1-0 win over the Rangers, on Wednesday.
"Jhonas played unbelievable last game for us, but you do notice when Millsy's out of the lineup," defenseman Tyler Myers said. "He's proved to be one of the best goaltenders in the world, and he's a key part of our group. It's nice to know that it's not long term, and he'll be back when he's ready."
Like the Sabres, Miller has rebounded from a slow start. He's been particularly sharp in going 9-4-3 in his past 16 games, including a stretch last week in which he allowed two goals in three wins, with two shutouts.
Enroth is looking forward to the opportunity, though he hasn't been informed as to whether he'll start Saturday.
"It's a big weekend for us, so I'm real excited," said Enroth, who has a 6-2-1 record with Buffalo after opening this season in the minors. "I want to play, and playing back to back is always fun."
Enroth's shutout came with his parents watching, the first time they've seen him play an NHL game in person. They won't be around this weekend, though, after traveling back home to Sweden on Friday.
Ruff ruled out forward Jochen Hecht this weekend, while forward Mike Grier is doubtful. Hecht has been bothered by a nagging upper body injury that's forced him to miss 10 of the past 14. Grier was limited in practice Friday and has missed the past two with a knee injury.
Center Derek Roy has spent this week skating on his own for the first time since having surgery in December to repair a torn left quadriceps tendon. Roy has expressed hope he could return late this month if the Sabres advance to the second round.