NEW YORK - Ryan Miller vividly recalls the walk he took last year after the crushing end to the Buffalo Sabres' season.
The Sabres were in position to steal the Eastern Conference title from the top-seeded Carolina Hurricanes. Buffalo led Game 7 on the road in the third period before things fell apart.
Miller and the Sabres returned to hockey's final four yesterday and are ready to take the step they tripped over a year ago.
"It feels pretty good to be back where we feel we belong," Miller said.
Chris Drury had a goal and assist in the Sabres' four-goal second period that erased an early deficit and sent Buffalo to a 5-4 victory yesterday over the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the conference semifinal series. Miller preserved the win with 32 saves, including 11 in a frantic third period.
"I remember walking out of Carolina's rink talking to my dad, shaking my head and saying, 'I was 20 minutes away from a chance,' " Miller said. "It stuck with me the whole year. I want that chance again, and I think everybody in this room appreciates it more that we got so close."
The only ones now standing in the way of the Presidents' Trophy-winning Sabres are the Ottawa Senators, Buffalo's Northeast Division rival. These teams know each other well and probably won't need much time to rekindle hostilities.
A late-February brawl in a game between the teams led to 100 penalty minutes. It was sparked by a hit on Drury.
"We definitely have some history with Ottawa, and we're going to have to go out and play our best hockey, so far, to have a chance to win that series," Miller said.
Dmitri Kalinin, Jason Pominville and Jochen Hecht joined Drury in Buffalo's latest offensive onslaught that lasted 9 minutes, 46 seconds and sent the Rangers reeling.