Blues' Miller hoping to regain winning form in playoffs

News-DemocratApril 13, 2014 

— If Ryan Miller is feeling any pressure after losing his final five starts this season for the St. Louis Blues, he showed absolutely none of it Sunday following a 3-0 loss to Detroit.

What can the veteran goaltender do differently that might turn things around?

"Just get hit with the puck, I guess," said Miller, 10-8-1 since joining the Blues while allowing 18 goals in his last five outings. "Obviously it's been a tough stretch as far as goals-against, but I don't feel like I'm in a really bad place.

"I feel like I'm in a pretty good place honestly. I know people probably will take that and just chop it up and laugh about it, but I feel pretty good. I can compete."

Competing is one thing, but Miller was brought in to provide an upgrade in goal over Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott.

His recent struggles, coupled with the team's offensive and defensive lapses and injuries that created holes in the lineup, have combined to form a perfect storm of inconsistency.

At least three times Sunday, Miller found himself staring down Red Wings on breakaways.

"What did he stop, three breakaways today?" Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I think before we can even talk about how Ryan's playing, we need to clean it up in front (of him). When we get the right focus and right energy, we'll get that cleaned up hopefully."

Hasn't Miller's play down the stretch been a cause for concern?

"I think he's been a lot like our team," Hitchcock said. "He's had some great performances, some performances that he probably thinks he could have played better, but I think it's about our team.

"For a goalie for us right now, with what we've been icing, we'd be hard to play for. We've given up two 2-on-1's, three breakaways ... heck we gave up a 2-on-0 on the power play in Minnesota. We're giving up some scoring chances that are pretty dynamic."

Miller's confidence remains intact as he looks forward to his first playoff series since 2011 with the Buffalo Sabres.

"Everybody starts at zeros again," Miller said. "We could have run the table at the end of the season and still found ourselves in the same situation. We have to beat a team to advance through the next round of the playoffs.

"We just kind of regroup and remind ourselves what we do well and we build a game plan and execute. We were going to have to do it anyway."

Scouting the Blackhawks

Chicago has won seven of the previous 10 playoff series against the Blues. The teams haven't met in the postseason since 2002 and the Blues won three of the five-game series this season.

"The Blues have had an outstanding season," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "They play a hard game. They play a perfect team game positionally, they play tight, work hard and don't give you any space."

Chicago has lost two straight and is 5-5 in the last 10 games, but won the final two games against the Blues (4-2 and 4-0). The Blackhawks expect injured stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to be ready for the playoffs.

Ironman Jay

* Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was the only Blue to play in all 82 games this season as Alex Pietrangelo finished at 81 while sitting out Sunday's contest/

Bouwmeester also played in his 717th consecutive game, the longest streak in major professional sports. He played a season-low 19 minutes, 15 seconds Sunday after averaging just over 24 minutes a game. That's second on the team behind Pietrangelo's average ice time of 25:22.

*Forwards Ty Rattie and Sergey Andronov were re-assigned to the Blues' Chicago Wolves minor-league affiliate Sunday. Andronov was called up Sunday as a precaution if needed, even participating in warmups.

Rattie did not score in two games and had one shot in 10 minutes, 46 seconds of ice time Sunday.

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

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