Miller looking forward to fresh start with the Blues

News-DemocratMarch 3, 2014 

— Veteran goaltender Ryan Miller wore No. 39 Sunday night when he won his first game with the St. Louis Blues.

But it wasn't the first time Miller had ever worn a Blues jersey.

Even though his cousin, Kevin Miller, was a Blues' center from 1992-95, Ryan Miller was also a huge fan of former Blues goalie Curtis Joseph.

"It's something where I'm really kind of blown away that I'm playing for the St. Louis Blues," Miller said Monday at Scottrade Center, a day before making his home debut against the Tampa Bay Lightning. "I had a jersey, I had a hat ... it was all about Cujo and it was all about my cousin for a long time.

"Kevin being here definitely helped, but Curtis Joseph being here was a big deal for me. He was my favorite goaltender growing up."

Miller had a blank white goalie mask Sunday night, but said he may call Joseph to come up with his first Blues' design.

"I'll get a new one painted up here shortly," said Miller, wearing his familiar black stocking cap. "I've got to call Cujo, maybe we can bust one out from back in the day."

After sending goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart and a package of draft picks and a prospect to Buffalo on Friday for Miller and forward Steve Ott, the Blues are hoping the 33-year-old Miller could be the final piece of their elusive playoff puzzle.

While Miller has no Stanley Cup on his resume, he has taken the Sabres on a pair of long playoff runs and also was named MVP of the 2010 Winter Olympics while playing for Team USA.

His career numbers are 284-186-56 with a 2.60 goals-against average, 28 shutouts and .916 save percentage.

Ott said Miller was able to remain one of the top goalies in the Eastern Conference while playing for the last-place Sabres, thanks to "his focus and determination. You're going to see something that's special. His ability to close out games, seal out pucks, it almost becomes like he's unbeatable.

"After he gives up one or two, he just shuts the door and with the confidence you have in a goalie, that allows all the other guys to do their job to the fullest ability. Knowing you have that brick wall in net just adds extra confidence."

Miller is in the final year of a five-year deal worth $31.3 million and like Ott, can become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

But the Blues are hoping that the motivation of Miller playing for a Stanley Cup contender behind a strong, deep club near the top of the Western Conference could be just the right ingredient for both parties.

"When you get in this situation, you're not just talking about taking a stab at it," Miller said. "You go out and you compete and I think this team's been in that mode for a while. They're just really trying to find the right combination and I'm hoping that Steve and I can help add to that."

It's a fresh, new page for both players. But goalies, as usual, are in the limelight.

"It feels great," Miller said. "It's quite an experience to change teams, you want to get off to a good start and start to work with the boys, kind of show them what you can do and earn their trust."

Miller watched his new teammates scratch and claw their way back from a 2-0 deficit Sunday to score four goals in the final period of a 4-2 win at Phoenix.

"Actually, it was just fun to watch the way the guys turned it on in the third period," he said. "It makes you feel good that you've got a club that can really turn it up when they need to. It looks like we've got a confident group."

Of even more interest to Miller was the way a Blues team that playing its third game in four nights responded when the game was on the line.

"You'd think that's when they'd be running out of gas and they really turned it up and played great," he said. "That's the sign of a group that has some character --and the sign of a group that's been through some stuff before."

Well aware he could test the free agent market after the season, Miller suggested he'd like to remain with the Blues.

"I think it's definitely a possibility," Miller said. "It's a great organization and just taking with Doug Armstrong and some of the coaching staff, they really seem to have a good handle on the kind of team they want to have.

"That being said, I think it's something where we're not going to have too much discussion until later on. I'm very open to it, but right now it's more about the hockey."

After playing the first 540 games of his NHL career with the Sabres, Miller admitted being more than a little emotional after the trade.

"Buffalo was a great part of my hockey career and I'll be forever grateful to the organization and the fans and the friends I met there," he said. "But I'm really looking forward to getting to know the city and the fans here. I've already gotten a chance to get to know some of the guys on the team and so far it's been a great experience."

Miller and Blues captain David Backes have been teammates on the last two U.S. Olympic teams and this season the goalie was able to meet T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk as well.

"You switch teams and you start from scratch," said Miller, although he's been friends with Blues center Derek Roy since their days together in Buffalo's farm system. "It's definitely something where you want to show the fans what you can do. You want them to feel comfortable with you in net as the goaltender, the fans need to feel a little bit comfortable."

How would Miller describe his style?

"I'm not really a flashy goaltender," he said. "I'm positional and if I'm flashy, something probably went wrong in my approach. My idea is just to move smoothly into position and just (see) the puck."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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