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Rangers forward Miller has potential for bigger role

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- J.T. Miller said himself that nothing is guaranteed in the NHL, especially on a team with lofty goals like the New York Rangers. However, getting the opportunity to earn a bigger role with the Rangers is not something Miller takes for granted.

"You want one," Miller said. "I don't expect anything around here, but it's something you work for and if it presents itself you have to make the most of it."

It's still unclear if he has made the most of it. Miller's results during his preseason audition to be a top-six right wing for the Rangers this season, to fill the spot vacated by the since retired Martin St. Louis, are hazy at best.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault pulled Miller out of the top six for the game Wednesday against the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden because he didn't think Miller, in his three previous preseason games, had developed enough scoring chances.

Vigneault put Kevin Hayes, who was coming off his best preseason game at center on Monday against the Philadelphia Flyers, at right wing on a line with Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan against the Bruins.

Miller, though, had the highlight of the night, scoring on goalie Jonas Gustavsson at 16:29 of the second period after toe-dragging the puck around defenseman Adam McQuaid. He scored with linemates Oscar Lindberg and Viktor Stalberg on the ice with him.

Hayes didn't make a positive impact in 15:39 of ice time and finished a minus-2 with one shot on goal. Miller played 16:23 and was a plus-2 with three shots, including his goal.

"As everybody saw [Wednesday] in his game, there's some moments where you see the skill set and you see the offensive potential, and there's some other moments where on his own he's got to learn to make the right play at the right time, high-percentage play with the puck," Vigneault said. "[Miller is a] young player that is going through the process and will continue to improve."

Miller has been going through the process for two seasons under Vigneault.

He spent time in the American Hockey League early last season because he wasn't doing enough to earn ice time with the Rangers, but he played well after getting recalled in late November and impressed late in the season.

Miller was promoted into a top-six role after Mats Zuccarello went down with an injury in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins. That's what led Vigneault to give Miller his big opportunity this preseason.

It's still unclear if Miller did enough to get slotted in as the right wing with Stepan and Kreider in the season opener next week, but what is for certain is that Miller will be on the team and counted on for production and improved defensive play.

There is no doubt in his mind that he's ready for that.

"I'm older and mature in more ways," Miller said. "I've made mistakes in the past that you can learn from, not even big mistakes but little things that when you're younger you don't realize and you pick up as you go. For example, you have to try to have a B-minus game instead of a C-minus game when you're not feeling it. You have to be responsible and not let the whole game go, just try to play with confidence. I'm trying to establish myself more than anything."

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