SOCHI, Russia _ Ryan Miller is determined to be a good teammate even as he's disappointed. He found out, officially, during Friday's practice that he will not be the starter for the U.S. at the Sochi Games, despite a brilliant showing in the last Olympics, despite being a one-man defense with the Buffalo Sabres.
The job belongs to Jonathan Quick, who is starting Saturday against Russia as he started in the opening game against Slovakia. Coach Dan Bylsma acknowledged Miller's credentials, but anointed Quick.
"I don't want to take anything away from anybody else's tournament in Vancouver, obviously the Canadians won a gold medal, but Ryan was possibly the best player of the tournament," Bylsma said. "He was the best player for the U.S. and so that's certainly, that experience was a factor. And Ryan has had a good year this year, as well."
So why not Miller again? Quick was expected to get the job back in August at orientation camp, but then questions arose about his readiness after a strained groin sidelined him from Nov. 12-Jan. 4. In the meantime, Miller looked fantastic playing in front of one of the worst teams in the NHL.
Quick's comeback, and his MVP play during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, swayed Bylsma.
"Jonathan Quick is a goalie who has guided his team to a Stanley Cup and was a huge factor," he said, "and a guy who in the past 12 games in the last month, has a goals-against just a shade over two and .918 save percentage, which are great numbers. He's a great goalie."
Miller, an East Lansing native who won the Hobey Baker Award while at Michigan State, long has been considered one of the best goaltenders in hockey. He came away from Vancouver with a silver medal and the tournament MVP award after losing to Canada in overtime.
He downplayed Bylsma's decision, while admitting to disappointment. "He's not sending mixed message, that's just how it is," Miller said.
"Yeah, you want to come over here and play, but you just have to stay ready and be available.
"I found out officially during practice, but kind of had an idea since he didn't tell me early enough to prepare for playing."
His success in Vancouver, Miller said, "was four years ago. I'm ready to play if need be. I'm not going to take it as a slight. I'm on this team for a reason and I'll just be ready to go."
Miller has been helping Quick adjust to his role as Olympian starter after being the third-string guy in Vancouver.
"We have a good relationship," Quick said, "We talk about plays, usually during TV timeouts if I'm down in his end, we talk things over in the locker room. He's constantly been helping me when he sees something and that's great. Any help you can get you'll take, especially in a tournament like this."
Miller is advising Quick on adjusting to the larger ice surface, which wasn't part of the Vancouver Olympics, because Miller won't let personal disappointment trump professionalism.
"I want this team to succeed," he said, "and I'm seeing things within the game that are different than the NHL. To win over here, it's a little bit different read."
Defenseman Brooks Orpik, who played with Miller in 2010, said Bylsma's decision "wasn't one I would want to make," and lauded Miller for the way he's handling it.
"If you're not named," Orpik said, "you can go two ways - you can be a good teammate and practice hard and be supportive or you can go the other way and be a distraction. Millsie, he has been great. He's vocal in the locker room. You watch him in practice, he's taking extra shots.
"He's been super positive of the whole team and Quick."
When not helping his teammate, Miller, 33, is enjoying the Sochi Games with his wife, Noureen, and his dad, Dean. The spring-break like weather has made exploring the area ideal.
"It's a little further to see the family just because of security," Miller said, "but generally it's nice, venues are nice, the weather is great, the people are nice and accommodating. Russia has done a good job."
St. James writes for the Detroit Free Press.