Sabres’ Miller has plenty of incentive heading into next season

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Three is a crowd, and the Buffalo Sabres’ crease remains awfully crowded as the summer continues. But as it seems right now, though, Ryan Miller is still The Guy.

Right now, at least.

The Sabres are coming upon a pivotal stage with their organization, especially with the enigmatic Miller entering the final year of his contract and the subject of trade talk that has gone otherwise silent in the last few weeks.

But there is plenty of incentive for the 33-year-old Miller, who had a record of 17-17-5, a goals-against average of 2.81 and save percentage of .915 last season, to put together as good a season as he possibly can.

First and foremost is what happened to him and the Sabres last season.

Not only did the club fail to make the playoffs, but Miller was constantly making headlines for either calling out teammates or what turned into a sometimes tumultuous relationship with the Buffalo fan base.

He was America’s starting goaltender at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, when an underdog U.S. team took Canada to overtime in the gold medal game.

A strong showing this season and he could regain the starting duties when the U.S. opens up it’s schedule in the men’s ice hockey competition in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

Also, he is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2013-14 season, when his current five-year deal worth $31.25 million expires.

The motivation should be there. He carried the U.S. to within one goal of a gold medal in 2010 and may only get one more chance to go between the pipes for his country on the Olympic stage.

And, if that’s not enough, playing to a level he’s shown capable of in the past may not only go a long way in smoothing over any wayward relationships, but could make the Sabres a dark horse in the newly aligned Atlantic Division.