BUFFALO - Ryan Miller says Danny Briere should receive a warm reception when he steps onto the ice at HSBC Arena tonight for the first time in a Flyers sweater.
And the Sabres' goalie is making a prediction.
"Danny is not happy unless he has a nice night of points," Miller said.
Briere, talking on his cell phone, laughed.
"He said that? You know what will make me happy? If we win the game - that's all I need," Briere said.
Briere and Flyers goalie Martin Biron's long-awaited return to Buffalo is upon us.
"I haven't talked to Danny a lot," Miller said. "We've had a couple text messages."
"It should be fun," Briere said of tonight's return. "I had a lot of good memories from my time in Buffalo. But I am at a point in my life right now where I am very happy. I have no regrets. But there will always be good memories from Buffalo."
It hasn't been an easy transition for the Sabres, losing both their captains, Briere and Chris Drury. Last season on this date, the Sabres had 24 victories, 50 points, and were second overall in the NHL. It was Buffalo and Ottawa, then everyone else in the Eastern Conference.
Since losing Drury to the Rangers and Briere to the Flyers in free agency, the Sabres aren't scoring and are 15 points behind last year's pace as the seventh seed in the East.
In their 17 wins this season, the Sabres have outscored opponents, 76-29. In their 15 losses (including overtime), they have been outscored, 60-25.
This season, the East is all Ottawa - then everyone else, including Buffalo.
"I expected our scoring to go down," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "You look at the parity in the league and tight games. Early on, we lost those [low-scoring] games, but now we're starting to win them. That's been a key step for our team."
With Briere and Drury gone, Ruff has given Derek Roy more ice time (20 minutes per game), while Jochen Hecht, who played on Briere's line, now has his own unit (18 minutes, 22 seconds). Buffalo has 13 players in double figures in scoring, but no longer has a player in the league's top 20. Roy's 29 points lead the club.
The Sabres and Flyers are almost mirror images in the standings, in goals against and save percentage. Although Buffalo misses Briere's offense and Drury's all-around toughness, the Sabres also miss the veteran presence.
"The biggest thing Danny and Dru did was answer tough questions," Miller said. "They were our captains. They had the pressure to perform. They allowed our young guys to play loose every night. Danny and Dru handled all that pressure. . . . But we are adjusting, we're back in a better position."
The Sabres do not have a captain this season. The C is rotating month to month. Right now, Brian Campbell bears the honor.
"Guys seem to enjoy the challenge," Campbell said. "More guys are trying to step up and fill Danny and Dru's roles, but not completely. But they try. We've moved on."
Miller said he has kept up with the Flyers' progress through television highlights.
"They've improved in a lot of areas since last year, especially on the defensive side," the Buffalo goalie said. "They are playing better that way. Marty has helped. Offensively, they have a lot of weapons now. We match up with them. We're very similar now."