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At the Rink blog

Rangers' Miller returns to lineup at ideal time

Wednesday, 11.06.2013 / 3:38 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer / 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

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2013-2014 At the Rink Blog
Rangers' Miller returns to lineup at ideal time

NEW YORK -- Thirty-five games into his NHL career, New York Rangers forward J.T. Miller remains a work in progress.

The 2011 first-round pick (No. 15) scored twice in his Madison Square Garden debut on Feb. 7 but hasn't scored since. After opening the 2013-14 season with one assist in nine games, he was made a healthy scratch Monday night in a 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

But with New York playing a back-to-back set at home Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins and on the road Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Rangers coach Alain Vigneauilt has decided to inject Miller's young legs back in the lineup.

The move couldn't have come at a better time for Miller, who was raised just outside Pittsburgh in suburban Ohio and grew up idolizing the Penguins.

"One of my favorite players was [Alex] Kovalev. I tried to play like him. Him and obviously [Jaromir] Jagr and Mario [Lemieux]. I really looked up to those guys," said Miller, who especially tried to emulate Kovalev's style. "His wrist shot was very special to watch. He scored a lot of goals with that. It was great to watch that guy."

The matchup Wednesday against his hometown team will be followed by a trip to Columbus, which is located less than 200 miles from his hometown of East Palestine, Ohio. It's the perfect opportunity for Miller to revisit his early years coming up in the sport, but he's made it plain that he is primarily looking to help the Rangers and play his way back into the regular rotation.

"It's a privilege and an honor to be here. I have to make sure to take every game like it's my last," Miller said. "You've just got to look at it as an opponent. We need two points. Obviously it's a division rivalry and it's going to be an exciting, fast-paced game."

There is plenty at stake for the 20-year-old in his return to the lineup. Miller's lengthy slump last season resulted in his being sent down for a stint in the American Hockey League. It was there that he started this season, playing three games for the Hartford Wolf Pack. He doesn't plan on repeating that trip.

"Obviously we play Columbus, which is pretty close to home as well. I'm trying not to get caught up in the whole home thing," Miller said. "Just try to play hockey. We still need two points at the end of the day. That's all that really matters."

Quote of the Day

I don't know how he does it. I don't know how he gets his body parallel with the player and pulls it through his legs like that. I know he's tried it a couple times in practice and it's never worked, so how he does it in a game, it's incredible.

— Capitals defenseman Mike Green on teammate Alex Ovechkin's highlight-reel goal against the Devils on Saturday