Ryan Miller's ability to dominate Western Conference foes could be exactly what the Buffalo Sabres need to end a long drought in the Show Me State.
The Sabres seek a victory in St. Louis for the first time in more than 12 years Sunday night when they meet the Blues, owners of the NHL's worst home record.
Buffalo posted a 3-1 win in St. Louis on Oct. 1, 1997, but have gone 0-2-2 with a tie there since.
Each of the Sabres' last two visits have resulted in overtime losses. In 2003, Keith Tkachuk lifted the Blues to a 2-1 win, and in the most recent matchup on Dec. 23, 2006, Bill Guerin -- now with Pittsburgh -- scored 95 seconds into the extra session for a 3-2 triumph.
If the Sabres are to end their futility in Missouri, they'll need Miller to win his first game action at the Scottrade Center.
The seven-year veteran has alternated losses and wins in his last three road games, giving up a season high for goals away from home in a 5-2 defeat against Washington on Wednesday. Miller is 10-4-0 with a 2.06 goals-against average and two shutouts on the road in 2009-10.
The likely starter for the US Olympic team that will be named New Year's Day, Miller has allowed five total goals while winning all five of his starts against the West this season. Even backup Patrick Lalime, who managed four wins in 31 games during his only season with St. Louis in 2005-06, showed off his defensive prowess in a 2-1 win over Central Division-leading Chicago on Dec. 11.
That stifling defense is one reason why the Sabres (22-11-4) lead the Northeast Division after failing to make the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
Despite taking his first shootout loss of the season Saturday, 3-2 to short-handed Ottawa, Miller put forth a gutsy effort. Buffalo was outshot 19-1 in the first period, but entered the break scoreless.
"We have to dictate play. A point's OK. When you get to a shootout it's a toss-up," Miller said.
Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville scored to help the Sabres erase a 2-0 deficit. Buffalo fell to 2-2-2 since winning eight of 10, and will be without one of its best players Sunday.
Derek Roy, who leads the Sabres with 21 assists and 30 points, suffered an upper-body injury while being checked early in Saturday's third period.
The Blues (17-15-5) are kicking off a four-game stretch at home, where they're 6-11-2.
After winning back-to-back games in St. Louis for the only time this season Nov. 19 and 21, the Blues have gone 1-4-1 there while giving up fewer than four goals only once. Chris Mason is 1-3-1 with a 3.77 GAA over that span and ex-Sabre Ty Conklin yielded a season-high five goals in a loss to Edmonton on Dec. 11.
Coach Andy Murray may want to give the nod to Conklin, who's 6-0-0 with a 1.15 GAA and a shutout versus Buffalo. Mason is 0-3-0 with a 5.14 GAA.
Following the franchise's first sweep through Western Canada, St. Louis lost 4-3 in Minnesota on Saturday. Patrik Berglund had a goal and assist.
"It was the kind of game where whoever got that next goal, it was going to be a big one, and they found a way to get that one," Murray said.