Miller testing injured left ankle

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Buffalo Sabres starting goalie Ryan Miller has begun skating on his own to test his injured left ankle and is confident he is on track to return to the lineup before the end of the season.

Miller said on Monday that he still feels some discomfort when he's stretching, but he has not experienced any setbacks during his rehabilitation.

"I fully expect to play. That's what's in my head," said Miller, who has worked out on his own the past two days. "Without any setbacks, it's very likely we're not going to have any problems."

Miller said he'll continue increasing his on-ice time through the week, but it was too early to provide a timetable for when he might be cleared to practice. Complicating the injury is the fact it involves the same part of the ankle he relies on for his butterfly goaltending style.

Miller has missed nine games since being hurt in the third period of a 4-2 win over the Rangers on Feb. 21, when he fell awkwardly into the end board after being upended by New York's Scott Gomez.

The Sabres have gone 3-4-2 without Miller and sit in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, three points out of a playoff spot with 13 games left, including a game at Ottawa on Tuesday night.

Coach Lindy Ruff said he "couldn't even guess" when Miller might return but added: "We want him to keep progressing, and I hope to get him sooner than later."

Backup Patrick Lalime has taken over the starting duties and allowed 22 goals in nine games, including six in a 6-3 loss at Ottawa last week. He's received inconsistent support from Buffalo's offense, which has scored two goals or fewer four times over that stretch.

Ruff said the Sabres will be without gritty fourth-line forward Adam Mair, who will miss at least a week after hurting his knee in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday.