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Miller not considering retirement after fourth knee procedure for Bruins

'Long haul' for pending free agent defenseman, who hasn't played since April 2019

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

Kevan Miller said he is not thinking about retirement, though he doesn't know when he might return to play in the NHL.

The Boston Bruins defenseman, who can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, has not played for more than a year after injuring his right knee April 4, 2019. The 32-year-old has had multiple setbacks including surgery in March that he said was the fourth procedure on his kneecap. Miller missed the Bruins' run to the Stanley Cup Final last season.

"It's been a long haul," he said Wednesday. "It's taken a toll. Mentally, physically, it's taken a toll. … My injury was not a very common one and then to have it break again is even more uncommon."

Miller, who has played all six of his NHL seasons for the Bruins after they signed him as an undrafted free agent, is their nominee this season for the Masterton Trophy, awarded annually by the Professional Hockey Writers Association for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication. He called it "a true honor."

Miller's focus is on getting his knee to function normally. Tying his shoes was a milestone. Walking has come. He can now go up and down stairs. Hockey is the goal for later.

"I want to be healthy. I want to play. I know I can help the team," said Miller, who has been a physical presence for the Bruins and has 67 points (12 goals, 55 assists) in 324 games. "It's a tough pill to swallow when you're showing up to the rink and you can't help the guys and it's been so long since you've been able to play a game. But I'm not losing hope on that at all. If anything, it's pushed me to push more and make sure that I'm doing it the right way to get back out there."

In some ways, the NHL pausing its season on March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus was a positive for Miller because it allowed him to take a step back. But not being able to see some of his doctors and trainers also made his rehab more difficult.

He said it helped overall.

"It's allowed me to heal without any real timeline," Miller said. "That's kind of where I'm at now. I haven't circled a date. Before I was circling dates, now I'm not circling a date."

Instead, Miller is just hoping to go step by step, milestone by milestone. He had an X-ray a few weeks ago, and everything seemed to be in order. He has a CT scan coming up in a few more weeks. Then comes strength training and, eventually, the ice.

Miller said he has not had any discussions with his agent about his NHL future and does not know how much his agent has talked with the Bruins. He just wants to focus on being healthy for the moment. He has a daughter and a son who was born in January, and wants to be there for his family.

"It's tough to be there for your kids when you're not able to really do as much as you would like or you can," Miller said. "To be there for your wife, be there for your kids, be present. It's beyond just the actual physical trauma. … So that takes a toll."

The Bruins (44-14-12, .714 points percentage) had the best record in the NHL when the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. They are one of four Eastern Conference teams (Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers) that will play a round-robin as part of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers under the 24-team NHL Return to Play Plan. The top four Western Conference teams will also play a round-robin, with the games determining seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The qualifiers will also include 16 teams playing eight best-of-5 series, with the winners advancing to the playoffs. The dates and two hub cities -- one for the 12 participating Eastern teams, one for the 12 Western teams -- for the qualifiers have yet to be announced.

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