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Miller Still on the Road to Recovery

Blue liner, sidelined for over a year, rehabbing from yet another setback

by Eric Russo @erusso22 / - It has been a long and infuriating road for Kevan Miller.

Thirteen months have passed since the rugged blue liner last played in a National Hockey League game. Regrettably, the end of his grueling journey is not yet in sight.

During a virtual town hall with Bruins season ticket holders on Thursday afternoon, Miller revealed that he is eight weeks out from yet another procedure on his right knee.

"Timing-wise, things have been good for me," said Miller, who has remained at his Charlestown home during the NHL's pause. "I'm off crutches and walking around again. Things are good. Most of my rehab has been done in Boston; I've been here ever since. It's been a little bit different having to rehab mostly at home.

"But thankfully - if that's the word - I've been accustomed to having most of the stuff I need at home now for a little bit to make sure things are moving along well. I'm feeling good now and back on the train to getting my knee healthy again."

Miller was limited to a career-low 39 games last season after battling through a brutal rash of injuries that included a broken hand, fractured larynx, torn oblique, and a twice-fractured kneecap.

The 32-year-old returned from the oblique injury late last March, suiting for three games during the final week of the 2018-19 campaign. But in the Bruins' penultimate game of the regular season in Minnesota, Miller spun awkwardly into the boards and fractured his kneecap.

The California native was pushing hard to return for the Stanley Cup Final when he re-fractured the kneecap - this time horizontally, a far worse scenario - during an off-ice workout at PNC Arena during the Eastern Conference Final against the Hurricanes.

"Obviously I would have loved to play, but team-wise it was special to see some individual and team performance that went through that whole Cup run," said Miller. "It's special to be around. It's an infectious atmosphere…obviously we fell one game short, but it was a really special run and it was cool to watch.

"Personally for me, it was probably one of the hardest things I've had to go through, to be honest with you, not being able to be out there with your team and help, being on the sidelines and knowing I could have helped.

"God, I wish I could have. It was bittersweet. It definitely keeps me awake at night still, knowing that growing up as a kid you want to win a Stanley Cup - so close and it just didn't line up correctly."

Miller once again required surgery after that setback in Raleigh and did not return to the ice until mid-October. He re-joined his teammates for practice on Nov. 11, but the blue liner's progress was stunted, as he suffered several setbacks that have put his career on hold.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney did not seem optimistic about Miller's chances for a return this season, even with the extended pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"He has been able to maintain some therapy," Sweeney said during a conference call on April 10. "It's been backed off with the stricter policies of our building in the last little while. But he was able to maintain some of that. Kevan's just had some setbacks that I don't believe at this time that it will be in his best interest to try and ramp up in a short span with the hopes of playing this year."

Miller, who has spent the first 10 seasons of his pro career in the Bruins organization, is an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

"Our intentions are for Kevan to be 100 percent healthy so he can resume when we start the next season," said Sweeney. "We know Kevan's a UFA, so we'll entertain the opportunity to bring Kevan back and he'll also entertain whether or not he wants to come back.

"But most importantly for Kevan, he needs to get back to being absolutely fully healthy and I don't think in a short span that we're gonna want to put him in any situation where he can jeopardize any further setbacks.

"He's got a longer timeline to make sure he does things in smaller stages that would afford him the opportunity to be 100 percent healthy and return to play."

Miller also touched on a number of other topics during the 30-minute Q&A. Here's a sample:

Have you been able to stay in touch with your teammates during this time?

"It's been great. We've utilized Zoom a number of times to connect with the guys to have team chats and get together and have some laughs and kind of make fun of each other and maybe talk a little hockey, make sure everyone is doing well and staying safe.

"That's been fun. Obviously, some side texts with the guys here and there. But everybody kind of went their own separate way a little bit. A lot of guys stayed here; a lot of guys went home. But it's been good to connect with the guys and make sure everybody is staying safe and healthy."

What has it been like to play alongside the likes of Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron?

"Gosh, those guys. Just to hear the names, it's special. Those guys are special players, special people on and off the ice. They're guys that I look up to personally and have looked up to for a long time and how they carry themselves on and off the ice is something that a lot of guys emulate or try to emulate.

"Hopefully they can pass that down to the next generation and kids see that. I think it gets lost a little bit on people nowadays that athletes can and should be good role models. It's not for everybody, but those guys have kind of taken it on their backs to be good role models and people in this city.

"They've done a tremendous job of that and they've done it for me as well. It's guy like that that I truly enjoy playing with and I'll look back and say I was super fortunate to have those guys on my team and be friends with them."

If you could pick one Bruin from history to play with, who would it be?

"That's easy for me, man. Bobby Orr. Absolutely. He's a guy that even coming from California, I knew the name and kind of idolized and was aware of how good of a player he was and what he did for the game.

"I think his legacy travels beyond the East Coast, it's worldwide. It certainly was on my side of the coast in California. I grew up in the [Wayne] Gretzky era in California, but Bobby Orr was always a guy that I had looked up to and definitely knew."

Which defense partner have you worked best with over the years?

"I think [Matt Grzelcyk]. He's been the guy I've been most comfortable with throughout my career. He's been a great guy to play with, he skates so well, he plays the puck so well. He's an easy guy for me to read off of.

"Guys that have the Grizz's makeup I've had some success with, guys that can skate really well. I can feed them the puck and get moving, maybe draw guys to me in the corner and bump it off to him and give him a little time and space. I think that was kind of a key thing for me."

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