Nashville Predators right wing Jordin Tootoo (22) hits Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) in the second period of an NHL hockey game on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. Miller feels like he can't turn on a NHL game without seeing a goaltender get run over.The Buffalo Sabres goalie suffered a concussion Nov. 12 after getting hammered by Boston's Milan Lucic outside of his crease and came out swinging a few weeks later when Nashville's Jordin Tootoo ramped right over top of him inside the blue paint.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Joe Howell
TORONTO - Ryan Miller feels like he can't turn on a NHL game without seeing a goaltender get run over.
The Buffalo Sabres goalie suffered a concussion Nov. 12 after getting hammered by Boston's Milan Lucic outside of his crease and came out swinging a few weeks later when Nashville's Jordin Tootoo ramped right over top of him inside the blue paint.
However, just as troubling for Miller is how often he continues to see similar situations happen around the league.
"I think it's just the way the game's going," Miller said before Thursday's game against the Maple Leafs. "Obviously, I pay attention to other games in the league and I think it's becoming a little bit of the guys are trying to arrive at the net without a plan.
"Two nights ago, you saw it with (Winnipeg's Evander) Kane driving through (Islanders goalie Al) Montoya, last night I saw (Detroit's) Jimmy Howard get run over in Vancouver and they even scored a goal off the play."
Montoya suffered a concussion on Tuesday after getting slammed into by Kane. Howard voiced his displeasure after Wednesday's loss in Vancouver, saying he was "sick and tired of getting run over."
Miller believes the best way to curb the trend is calling more penalties.
"I've heard some funny analogies," he said. "I ran into (former referee) Bill McCreary the other day and he just said 'If it's an alligator pit, they'd stop.' But it's not—you know, it's where you go to score goals. These guys have the ability to stop on a dime, turn, cut, take a hit.
"Just a little more attention has to be paid and the only way they pay attention is if you penalize them."
The Lucic hit on Miller essentially touched off the most recent debate about contact on goaltenders. Even though Miller had ventured out of his crease on the play, a number of NHL general managers believed Brendan Shanahan should have suspended Lucic for the incident.
Since then, the Sabres have been particularly vocal about the need to better protect goalies—often among the most valuable members of a team.
"All you had to do was turn on TSN this morning and there are goalies getting bumped," Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said Thursday morning. "It falls in that almost the open season category. ... I think we're in a dangerous territory with some of that stuff. In Ryan's case (with Lucic), he wasn't in the net for that one, but he took a hell of a hit."
It's all been part of a tough start to the season for the Sabres goaltender. Miller arrived in Toronto with an uncharacteristically high 3.12 goals-against average and was just days removed from owner Terry Pegular questioning his play following a blowout loss in Pittsburgh.
The U.S. Olympian indicated that he was trying to focus on small details of his game before growing frustrated with questions from reporters and abruptly ending his scrum.
"There's a lot of room for improvement on my part," said Miller. "It hasn't been ideal and it's been a little bit disappointing in a lot of areas. But I feel like I'm building my game back up here.
"It's only been a few weeks coming back off the concussion."
Ruff knows how important it is to get his No. 1 goalie back to top form. The team appears to be among a large group in the Eastern Conference that will have to battle for a playoff spot throughout the second half of the season.
"It's no secret you need good goaltending," said Ruff. "It starts there. If you get good goaltending, your team gets a lot of confidence from that."