By Tim Schmitt
BUFFALO — The games are already piling up on Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller, who made his ninth start of the season in a 3-2 overtime victory over Toronto on Friday. Miller is expected to be in the nets again tonight when the Sabres open a home-and-home series with the New York Islanders (7 p.m., MSG).
Miller led the league in goals against average heading into Friday’s contest, allowing just 1.60 goals per contest.
On Friday, he was the difference in the third period, turning aside 15 shots as the Maple Leafs rallied to send the game into overtime.
Miller made a few huge saves, none bigger than when he stopped Western New York native Lee Stempniak in the second period on a breakaway after a giveaway near center ice. He made another great save on Stempniak nearly six minutes into the third when the West Seneca native took a cross-ice feed from Ian White that Miller slid across and got a pad on.
With Friday’s win, the Sabres tied the second-best franchise mark through 10 games in a season with an 8-1-1 record.
Buffalo’s 2006-07 President’s Trophy team opened the season 10-0-0, but only one other team started a year with 17 points through 10 games — the 1975-76 team that followed the team’s first Stanley Cup appearance.
Drew Stafford opened the scoring on Friday, banging in his fourth goal of the season late in the first period on a power play.
For Stafford, the goal had a little extra meaning — it came on his 24th birthday.
Alexie Ponikarovsky looked like he tied the game in the third when he wheeled and got a puck past Miller that clanged off the post, but it rolled out behind the Sabres netminder and into the corner. Miller was named the game’s second star while Tim Connolly, who had the team’s final two goals, was the first star.
Buffalo’s Andrej Sekera is expected to return for the tonight’s game against the Islanders, and Lindy Ruff said it’s possible defenseman Nathan Paetsch will be moved up to a forward line.
Contact sports editor Tim Schmitt at 282-2311, ext. 2266.