Miller to rest as Blues host Sabres

( - With a tough weekend schedule on the horizon, Ryan Miller making his first career start against his former team will have to wait.

With the St. Louis Blues eyeing a Central Division title, and hopefully a deep playoff run, Brian Elliott will get the start on Thursday night in a home matchup with the Buffalo Sabres.

Prior to getting dealt to the Blues on Feb. 28, the Sabres were the only organization that Miller had ever known. A fifth-round pick by Buffalo in 1999, the 33-year-old Miller is the club's all-time wins leader with 284 and he won a Vezina Trophy award in 2009-10 while with the Sabres.

Miller was 15-22-3 with a 2.72 goals against average and .924 save percentage in 40 games with the Sabres this season, but with the club buried in the standings and Miller a pending free agent Buffalo made the decision to trade the goaltender.

The Sabres dealt Miller and forward Steve Ott for goaltender Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier and a pair of draft picks.

Buffalo has since traded Halak to the Washington Capitals for netminder Michal Neuvirth -- out with a lower-body injury -- and Stewart has not played since March 6 because of a high ankle sprain.

Miller, meanwhile, has gone 10-3-1 with a 2.01 GAA and .920 save percentage in 14 games with the Blues, while Ott has posted just two assists and a minus-5 rating in 16 games.

The Blues are set to play both Colorado and Chicago on back-to-back days this weekend and Miller may be able to start both afternoon contests by sitting out tonight. The fact that this game is not in Buffalo also may have made giving him the night off easier.

"It's fine. There will be a lot of times to worry about that later. This year, pretty fresh leaving that situation, so maybe it's just a nice little break," said Miller of not starting. "Get (Elliott) in there; he's going to kick some pucks out and hopefully I'll see some of the boys for dinner or see them around the rink or something. Catch up and see how they're doing."

St. Louis has a seven-point lead over Colorado for first place in the Central Division and is 10 points ahead of third-place Chicago. The Blues also are just one point behind the Boston Bruins for the most in the NHL with a game in hand and one point ahead of the Anaheim Ducks for the top seed in the Western Conference.

Elliott isn't a terrible choice to face the Sabres, who he is 9-0-2 against lifetime with a 1.81 GAA and two shutouts. He'll make his first start since a 33-save shutout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 23.

Miller, meanwhile, picked up his first shutout since March 21, 2012 when he made 31 saves and another two stops in the shootout of a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.

"We had a good player tonight," said St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock about Miller. "He was terrific. He was focused and competitive and whatever else we needed from him."

T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk had tallies in the tiebreaker for the Blues, who with 51 wins tied the 1999-2000 division-winning club for the most in a season in team history.

St. Louis moved to 2-1-0 on a five-game homestand and 12-3-1 in its last 16 games overall.

The Blues have won three straight and 13 of their last 15 meetings with the Sabres, as well as five of the past six encounters at home.

St. Louis picked up a 4-1 win over Miller in Buffalo on Nov. 19, with the netminder allowing all four goals on 31 shots.

The Sabres, last in the NHL with 51 points, will play three straight and five of their final seven games on the road and are coming off Tuesday's 3-2 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils.

Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford and Ville Leino all had shootout tallies for the Sabres, with Leino's ninth-round tally putting Buffalo ahead before Nathan Lieuwen made a pad save on Mike Sislo to seal the victory.

"It was actually pretty awesome. I wanted to score for (the fans) and they gave me a little extra effort there," said Leino of the positive cheer he got when he came out to make the shootout attempt. "I didn't know if there were going to boo or cheer so I was pretty happy about that."

Lieuwen made 33 saves in his first NHL victory, one that snapped a four-game slide and gave the Sabres just their second victory in 13 games.

Ennis scored twice in regulation, giving him a career-high 21 goals on the season.