Ryan Miller

Report: Canucks take Markstrom off the market

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The Vancouver Canucks are no longer interested in trading goaltender Jacob Markstrom.

According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the club was open to offers on the 24-year-old Swede earlier in the season. Markstrom reportedly asked for a trade after the team inked Ryan Miller last summer and general manager Jim Benning agreed the team was “exploring that option”.

However, Markstrom’s solid play this season has given Canucks’ management a change of heart.

Markstrom is currently second in the AHL in goals-against average (1.92) and save percentage (.934). He was the co-winner of AHL All-Star Game MVP on Monday night after stopping 16 of 18 shots.

In 18 games this season, Markstrom has a 12-4-2 record. He had a solid start to the season nearly setting a new AHL shutout record in October.

LeBrun reports the Canucks now believe Markstrom could be a late bloomer like current Lightning starter Ben Bishop.

Bishop, 28, spent parts of six seasons in the AHL prior to becoming an NHL regular in Tampa.

Markstrom, who is in the second year of a two-year, $2.4 million contract, is a restricted free agent after this season.

Sabres reject notion that they’re tanking

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The Buffalo Sabres were never expected to do much this season and while they had a great stretch from mid-November to mid-December, they did enter the All-Star break in last place after losing 11 straight.

Since before the season even began they’ve had to live with accusations that they’re tanking in order to land Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Both are considered to be players you could potentially build a franchise around. Still, the idea that they would intentionally try to slip into last place is insulting to Sabres head coach Ted Nolan.

“I’ve been around with the game for a long time,” Nolan told ESPN.com. “I’ve never been associated with anyone who said, ‘Let’s lose this game.’ Hey, winning is hard. There’s no sense in planning not to.”

The accusations have their root less in what Nolan or his players have done though and more with how the team was assembled in the first place. The Sabres dealt key veterans like Jason Pominville and Ryan Miller last season, leaving the squad underwhelming on paper. If trading away top veterans in exchange for picks and/or prospects is what it takes to be accused of tanking though, then Sabres president Ted Black thinks it’s become shorthand for rebuilding.

“You diminish yourself significantly in the present,” Black said of trading veterans. “But the hope is that it’s the future. We’ve gone through a dismantling. Are we trying to tank? No. But the performance is going to slip when you trade All-Stars for picks. It’s a consequence of a rebuild that’s going to require patience and time.”

Above all, captain Brian Gionta doesn’t want his teammates to get the idea that losing is acceptable under any circumstances.

“You don’t want guys coming in after a loss and feeling like we made strides,” Gionta said. “This game is all about winning. Part of the turnaround is changing that culture, the feel in the room, what’s acceptable and what’s not.”

In praise of Ryan Miller

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Ryan Miller got off to a great start with his new team, the Vancouver Canucks.

Or so the story went.

In reality, Miller’s gaudy win-loss record at the beginning of the season was just as much, if not more, a reflection of his teammates’ ability to score goals versus his ability to deny them.

But the 34-year-old has been earning his big contract lately. In his last 10 starts, he’s allowed just 14 goals, with a save percentage of .955 over that stretch. The Canucks won seven of those starts, including four victories when they scored three or fewer goals.

Not surprisingly, Miller’s save percentage has improved dramatically, up to .919, one point shy of the likes of Henrik Lundqvist, Corey Crawford, Jimmy Howard, and Cory Schneider, who are all tied at .920.

“I’ve had a nice long stretch with [the Canucks], a half a season,” Miller said recently, per The Province. “Now, we’re getting to the point where we know each other a lot better.”

Last night in Florida, Miller fell just 2:32 of notching his third straight shutout in a 2-1 victory over the Panthers.

There’s a good chance he’ll start again tonight in Tampa Bay, after which the Canucks will enter the All-Star break. Sans goalie controversy.

Related: Why sign Miller? Benning wanted ‘a goalie with experience’

Goalie nods: Price returns from injury to face Preds

All the latest from the blue paint…

Carey’s back for Habs

After missing Saturday’s win over the Islanders with an upper-body injury, Carey Price will return to the Montreal net tonight when the Habs host the Preds at the Bell Centre.

Price, who’s having a Vezina- and Hart Trophy-caliber season, is 23-10-2 on the year with a .927 save percentage and 2.19 GAA. He’s headed to his fourth All-Star Game in Columbus on the weekend and is easily the biggest reason why Montreal comes into tonight’s game sitting third in the Atlantic Division, just three points back of Tampa Bay for top spot.

For the Preds, Carter Hutton will be in goal.

Elsewhere…

Sens at Rangers: Craig Anderson vs. Henrik Lundqvist

Oilers at Caps: Viktor Fasth vs. Braden Holtby

Pens at Flyers: Thomas Greiss vs. Ray Emery

Wild at Wings: Devan Dubnyk vs. Petr Mrazek

Canucks at Bolts: Ben Bishop for Tampa Bay, Ryan Miller likely for Vancouver.

Coyotes at Blackhawks: Mike Smith vs. Antti Raanta

Bruins at Stars: Tuukka Rask likely for Boston, Kari Lehtonen likely for Dallas.

Miller’s career-best shutout streak ends at 200:45 minutes

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The Florida Panthers aren’t one of the better offensive teams in the league, but lately they’ve been the only squad able to solve Ryan Miller. The Canucks goaltender led Vancouver to a 2-1 victory, but he came just short of earning a third consecutive shutout.

Miller’s run of perfection was broken with just 2:32 minutes left in regulation time courtesy of a quick shot off the draw by Brandon Pirri:

The 34-year-old netminder ended up silencing the competition for 200:45 straight minutes, which is a new personal best.

“It was fun while it lasted,” Miller said, per the Canucks’ Twitter feed. “The most important thing was we got the two points.”

It probably doesn’t hurt that he managed to outduel Vancouver’s old number one goalie, Roberto Luongo, in the process. Luongo came out on top when they faced each other on Jan. 8. There are no contests left between these two squads in 2014-15, so the netminders will have to live with the draw.

Of course, Miller has other matters on his mind as the Canucks’ playoff spot is far from guaranteed. His recent hot streak has helped, but Vancouver has a tough contest ahead of it tomorrow against Tampa Bay.