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Miller Working His Way Back

Blue liner's 2018-19 season was derailed by rash of injuries

by Eric Russo @erusso22 /

BOSTON - As the Bruins start anew this week, there is, perhaps, no one more relieved than Kevan Miller.

For the 31-year-old, the 2018-19 campaign was one to forget - and that is an understatement.

Miller played in just 39 games for the Bruins last season due to a brutal series of injuries, that included a broken hand in October, a fractured larynx in November, a torn oblique in February, and a broken kneecap during the penultimate regular-season contest in Minnesota.

The blue liner was nearing a return during the Eastern Conference Final when he broke the kneecap once more during off-ice training, ending any chance of a return for the Stanley Cup Final.

"I think that was probably the hardest thing to swallow," said Miller, who is entering his seventh season with the Bruins. "Especially come the playoffs, not being able to help the guys or be in that [Final]. That's something you dream about playing for, and that's something I'll think about for a long time.

"It's the nature of it, it's a physical sport. Things happen and sometimes they just happen in droves and unfortunately that was the case last year. I'm hoping this year will be a lot different."

As he continues to work back up to 100 percent, Miller will not be ready to join his teammates on the ice at the start of camp, but is hoping to be back in action sooner than later.

"We're not sure yet," said Miller. "It's kind of [up to the doctors]. We went over some stuff today, we have some things we need to cross off before that becomes an option. But it's still kind of up in the air…[it's] day-to-day, week-to-week, especially lately.

"The first couple of months there was a lot of the stuff over and over and over. I was on crutches and things like that, but now that I'm up and able to move around and workout and move some weight and do some stuff, it's encouraging and I'm feeling a lot better."

Video: Kevan Miller speaks at Training Camp

Backes Moving Forward

Through the first 13 seasons of his NHL career, David Backes has always had one approach. And he doesn't plan on changing it now.

"Balls to walls. It's the only way," Backes said on the opening day of training camp. "Start first shift in the first drill in practice and give it everything I've got until they tell me that I'm done playing. That's the way I've always been and that's the way I'm going to be, regardless of training camp, regular season, training all summer. That's my mindset, and I've got plenty of fuel burning inside of me to accomplish that."

He certainly does. The veteran winger's 2018-19 season did not end the way he envisioned, as he watched his former team skate away with the Stanley Cup. And what made it even more difficult was the fact that he watched the last two games of the Cup Final as a healthy scratch.

"I channel some of it, fester some of it away and let it motivate me," said Backes, who is entering his fourth season with the Black & Gold. "I needed to focus myself, too, on knowing what I can do as an athlete and having a great summer so I could do what I do best, and that's play the game. Not worry about other decisions that I don't get to make, that's out of my control.

"What's in my control is each shift, each play, each moment, and that's what I'm going to focus on all year starting with this one right now…that moment, that drill, and the decisions out of my control will be made."

Backes, who has two years remaining on his contract, said he was not contacted by the Bruins about a trade during the offseason.

"There's an eight-team trade list [in my contract] and that's been submitted," said Backes, who notched 20 points (7 goals, 13 assists) in 70 games last season. "And those decisions are out of my control, so I'm gonna be here, and I love being here. I love the guys here and it's a great team."

Video: David Backes speaks at Training Camp

Happy For Coach

The players were more than pleased to hear the news of coach Bruce Cassidy's multi-year contract extension. "It's awesome," said Miller. "It's great for our team. I've always been a big fan, and he's been my coach for a long time, learned a ton from him, and I'm very thankful to have him back."

"It's been great," added Patrice Bergeron. "There's always things you can learn from any coach. I've had the pleasure and opportunity to play for many great coaches. Buthcy is definitely one of them. He's very fair. He's always going to let you know what he thinks he can get more out of you and vice versa when things are going well.

"He's got a way of getting the young guys integrated very well and developing them. Only good things to say about him. It's well deserved. I'm not shocked at all."

Video: Cassidy speaks at Training Camp

Early Birds

Patrice Bergeron (groin), Joakim Nordstrom (foot), and Trent Frederic (lower-body) all took to the rink with skating and skills coach Kim Brandvold ahead of the first on-ice session Friday morning.

Video: Bergeron speaks at Training Camp

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