Ryan Miller was absent from the Buffalo Sabres’ practice today, which could mean that he won’t be in the Sabres’ net at all this weekend.  Buffalo plays back-to-back road games in Washington and Carolina this weekend.  The game against Carolina is especially critical as the Hurricanes only trail Buffalo by three points in the standings.

Miller is officially listed as “day-to-day” with an upper body injury since being hurt during the Sabres’ game in Toronto on Tuesday night.  Miller finished that game, but sat out Wednesday’s contest against the New York Rangers.   Jhonas Enroth was in net for that game against New York.  The Sabres shut out the Rangers, winning the game 1-0.

Despite Enroth’s victory on Wednesday, a healthy Ryan Miller is critical to the Sabres’ success in the remaining games of the regular season and, of course, in the playoffs.

Buffalo has been on a bit of a tear recently, winning four of their last five games.  In three of those games the Sabres shut out their opponents.  In addition to Enroth’s shutout on Wednesday, Miller recorded shutouts against New Jersey and Montreal as well.  He was named the first star of the week last week.

While the starting goaltender is a key part to any NHL team, Miller has been of one the Sabres’ most valuable players for several seasons.  He has a .915 save percentage, a 2.60 goals against average and five shutouts this season, but beyond his stats is his recent success that has helped propel the Sabres into a tie for seventh place in the East.  While the Sabres sit only two points out of sixth place right now, they were outside of the top eight a month ago.  The team put together a 10-4-2 record in March, largely based on Miller’s goaltending, and are now looking at the postseason.

Sabres GM Darcy Regier has declined to state whether or not Miller has been tested for a concussion, admitting only that a hard shot from Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf “played a role” in Miller’s injury.

The Sabres could simply be holding Miller out from practice as a precaution.  They would certainly be wise to err on the side of caution in regards to their goaltender, especially with the playoffs coming up and especially with what could be a head injury.  However, if we’ve learned anything at all this season it’s that head injuries can end up being much worse than originally expected and require much more time off than first assumed.

Sidney Crosby was originally estimated to be out for one week after suffering a concussion.  It’s now been almost three months.  In early February, Jonas Hiller was considered “fatigued” and he was supposed to rest for a while and miss a few games.  He continues to feel vertigo symptoms and has not played since.

With head injuries (if Miller indeed does have a head injury) there is no way to determine a specific timeline.  Miller could play this weekend, but he may require much more rest than that.  Unfortunately for the Sabres, this injury comes at possibly the worst time for them.