BostonBruins.com - When the Bruins hit the ice on Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes, Kevan Miller will be suiting up in his second NHL game, coming off his steady debut against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.
Adam McQuaid remains out, as he continues to recover from a lower-body injury suffered on November 9 at TD Garden against Toronto. Dennis Seidenberg is also still sidelined by a lower-body injury he sustained against early in the firs period against the Rangers on November 19, and has yet to start skating. He's estimated to be out a week.
McQuaid's first full practice with the team since the injury came on Friday at Ristuccia Arena. Having been on the ice since Monday, the defenseman had also joined the team's pregame skate on Thursday morning before they faced the St. Louis Blues.
He's inching closer to a return and "very, very close to being ready," per Head Coach Claude Julien. But he doesn't want to push it.
"I think it’s going to be something that I’m going to probably have to play through a little bit but you want to make sure that it gets to a certain point that you’re not going to re-injure yourself," McQuaid said following Friday's practice. "And also, that you’re capable of doing everything that you need to do on the ice."
Counting Carolina, McQuaid will have missed seven games with the injury (which hasn't been specifically disclosed). He's never experienced this type of lower-body injury before.
"It’s all new to me so every day I’m just kind of not quite sure what the next day is going to bring, but I’m doing what I’m told and trying to work through things," he said.
"Strength is a big issue; just being able to have the explosiveness and the power and stuff that you need to play at this level."
"When you’re not the fleetest of foot to begin with," he laughed. "You want to make sure you have that."
For the defensemen, the injury requires a constant "feeling out" and dialogue back and forth with the trainers.
"Let them know where I’m at, what I’m feeling and getting feedback. And because it’s new, I think we all kind of tend to want to push through things and sometimes you can have setbacks that are more harmful in the long run," he added. "And I’ve been out to this point - to put myself behind the 8-ball at this point would be pretty frustrating."
Miller's Steady Play Showcases Depth
Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien had no issues slotting Kevan Miller back in the lineup, coming off a "poised" performance in his first NHL game against St. Louis.
"No doubt, absolutely," said Julien, of his comfort with utilizing Miller.
"I thought he was pretty steady. He was just solid. He made good plays, he defended well, he didn’t really get beat in any areas of the game," said Julien of the 26-year-old's debut, coming in his third season with the organization.
"Sometimes you need those kind of guys that will come in and just, not play it safe because I thought he did a great job at supporting the attack and made some real good moves at the blueline carrying the puck."
"He just played with a lot of confidence and that’s what, as a coach, you ask from those players that come up is just go out there and play; and that’s what he did."
McQuaid, watching Miller's first NHL game from up in the press box, was just as impressed.
"I thought he played great. Solid, moved the puck well," said McQuaid. "I was saying to some of the other guys that I don’t think he made a bad play; like, he seemed to always find the right guy and the right option. So it’s always exciting to see guys get their first game and excited for him."
Now, the message from Julien and staff is to "keep it up."
"Just trying to do my job and keep it simple," said Miller.
The blueliner was used in nearly all situations against St. Louis, including time on the only penalty kill of the game, and his pinch help set up Carl Soderberg's goal.
"I mean, I’m not going to do a bunch of spin-o-ramas on the blueline," he laughed. "But if I can get it deep and just try to keep the forwards going, I’ll take that."
Miller has plenty of experience playing with good friend Matt Bartkowski in Providence, as well as Torey Krug.
"I’ve learned a lot from both of them. I think Dino [Kevin Dean] and [Bruce] Cassidy down there really help out a lot and obviously have done a great job with a number of guys," said Miller. "I felt pretty confident coming in because of them."
"They harp on us pretty good and try and get us ready and make sure we’re ready in the case the call comes."