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Brothers Drew Miller of Tampa Bay Lightning and Ryan Miller of Buffalo Sabres face off Saturday

TAMPA — If Teresa Miller had had more time this week, she would have sewn up a storm.

The jersey would have had the family name across the back, half in Lightning lettering, half in the Sabres' style. Underneath would have been numbers worn by sons Drew, who plays for Tampa Bay, and Ryan, who plays for Buffalo.

But this is a busy time in the state of Michigan's department of community health. Overtime is required, which means no sewing for Teresa, an accountant, and no way for her and husband Dean to attend tonight's game at the St. Pete Times Forum that pits brother against brother.

"It's nerve-racking around the house," Dean said. "It's hard to know who to pull for."

"Oh, God, I told Drew to kick his (butt)," Teresa said, laughing. "I'd love to see Drew score, but nobody else can."

That is because Ryan is the Sabres' All-Star goaltender.

Brother against brother is nothing new in the NHL; the Staals, the Primeaus, the Sutters, the Lindroses, the Espositos, to name a few.

And Drew, 25, and Ryan, 29, have faced off before, on Dec. 5, 2007, when Drew, a rookie left wing for the Ducks, gave his brother a stick whack across the mask when they met behind the net during Anaheim's 4-1 win.

"I gave him a little shot back," Ryan said. "No big deal."

As opposed to just sharing the same NHL ice with your brother.

"When you're growing up, you dream about playing at the highest possible level," Ryan said. "To realize your dream and play against each other is great."

Especially given the Miller heritage. Five in the extended family from East Lansing have played in the NHL, including Kelly, Kevin and Kip, who have a combined 2,117 games and are second cousins to Drew and Ryan.

Ten have played for Michigan State, including Drew, Ryan, their grandfather Butch and Dean. Ryan, in 2001, and Kip, in 1990, won the Hobey Baker Award as the United States' best male college player.

But this story is about two brothers who grew up friends despite fierce competitive streaks and different personalities.

Ryan said Drew "always thought he was older than he was. He always tried to tag along with me and my friends."

He also called Drew "a habitual line-crosser."

"Yeah, that's a little thing between me and him and some of our friends back home," Drew said. "They think I take things a little too far once in a while. I don't know. I don't think (Ryan) takes things far enough."

Dean said that groundwork was laid as children.

"Ryan is more serious and analytical. He's more even tempered," Dean said. "Drew — and not to say he's a hot-head or anything — but he can be more aggressive. You don't want to mess with him. Ryan is one of those guys who is more by the rules."

Dean said that Ryan, as a child, once asked for Star Wars Imperial Guards "to guard his room and keep Drew out of it."

But they had this in common, Dean said: "They were rink rats."

Drew, acquired from Anaheim in the August Evgeny Artyukhin deal, has zero points this season but plays with center Jeff Halpern on a line that has not allowed an even-strength goal. He also won a Stanley Cup in 2007 with the Ducks (he was in three playoff games) but doesn't hold it over his brother.

"No, no," Drew said. "He works hard, and you see how many guys who have great careers in the NHL who don't have a chance to win it, so you don't hang that over anyone's head. You hope they get a chance to win it."

Ryan, a 2007 All-Star and a candidate for the United States Olympic team, is 5-0-1 with a 1.65 goals-against average, a .942 save percentage and a shutout.

"He's fast," Drew said. "You've got to get him moving to get something by him."

And if he does for the first time in the NHL?

"It would be great," Drew said.

And make their mom, Teresa, very happy.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com

Brothers Drew Miller of Tampa Bay Lightning and Ryan Miller of Buffalo Sabres face off Saturday 10/23/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 23, 2009 11:49pm]
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