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Building chemistry

...Horvat and Miller skate together for the second straight day at training camp

by Tyson Giuriato @TysonGiuriato / Freelance writer

Versatile. Big body. Strong on the puck. Good at faceoffs.

Sound like Bo Horvat? You would be correct. Sound like J.T. Miller? You would also be correct.

And wouldn't you know it, the two of them have opened camp on the same line, with Nikolay Goldobin riding shotgun. The trio was on display Saturday at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, first during a 50-minute practice session, then front and centre during a scrimmage, where they went head-to-head against the Elias Pettersson/Micheal Ferland line.

"It has been pretty good the last two days," said Miller. "Me, Bo and Goldy have had a couple good possession times in our practices and in the scrimmage, we had a couple good shifts, but it's very early. Once we get into a couple pre-season games and get a couple reps, we will know more after that."

Video: CAMP | Miller on Day Two Ice Session

After playing in a depth role with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, where he posted 47 points (13-34-47) in 75 games, Miller is looking forward to an opportunity in the top six, alongside Horvat, whose style of play has caught his eye.

"He is a really well-rounded player," said Miller. "He can play 200-feet and in any situation. He is super strong on the puck and wins a lot of faceoffs, there is nothing really to not like about his game."

Horvat also likes what he sees from Miller, noting the similarities in their style of play.

"He has been great," said Horvat. "He is so smart. He is a big body and has some skill. He can shoot the puck and I think him and I compliment each other really well. We are both big bodies that can protect the puck down low. Hopefully we stick together for a while."

Perhaps one of the biggest things Horvat is looking forward to is Miller's ability to take the odd faceoff. Since 2015, Horvat has taken 6,333 face-offs, sixth most in the NHL during that span. Miller has taken 1,843 in the same timeframe, winning 50-percent of them.

"He came up to me on one of the draws and said he was pretty good on his forehand and to let him know if I wanted him to take some on my offside and I was like 'sure!'," laughed Horvat. "'Any time you want to jump in, I would be more than happy to give you the faceoff dot.' He is phenomenal in the dot as well, so it's nice to have somebody like that on my line."

It hasn't been the easiest of summer's for Miller, as the 6-foot-1, 218-pounder had to make the transition from one coast to another. That involved a trip out to Vancouver to find a place to live, as well as getting his family, dogs and vehicles moved. Safe to say, he's happy to be able to switch his focus back to the rink.

"It's nice to get out here," said Miller, who posted back-to-back 22-goal seasons with the New York Rangers, and a career-high 56 points in 2016-17. "It's training camp time and it's something we were waiting for. By the end of the season, you are always looking forward to a bit of off time, but by the time it rolls around right now, I think everyone is chomping at the bit to get going. To get a little bit of game action today was pretty cool."

On top of the big move, and joining a Canadian franchise for the first time, this also marks the third straight training camp that Miller has had a different head coach.

"It definitely is not easy when you have three different head coaches back-to-back-to-back years," said Miller. "But everyone is doing a really great job of making this a seamless transition for me and I feel confident that if I just bring what I brought to the table on other teams, that they know how I can play. If I just play like that, it should make it easier on me."

You didn't even need the scrimmage to see how he can play. Even in drills during the practice sessions, Miller uses his strength to go hard to the net. He's not afraid to get to those dirty areas.

"I think when they traded for me, that's what they liked about my game," said Miller. "Get to the gritty areas, try and take pucks there and try to make it hard on the defencemen. I am not a guy that is going to stickhandle through people, so I try to stick with what I know works for me.

"I want to be reliable and play 200-feet. I want to think I can play in any situation. I can play up and down the lineup and help the team wherever they need it most. I can play centre or wing. It's too early to tell what's going to happen, but I think I can bring a physical presence, can skate and disrupt the forecheck and get some time and space to make a play when I have to."

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