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Miller on Playing Center: I Want to Do What's Best for Team

by Matt Calamia @MattCalamia /

Center or on the wing, J.T. Miller is willing to do whatever is asked of him entering training camp.

But it appears center is where No. 10 will at least get a look early in training camp and through the preseason, which begins Monday night at The Garden against the New York Islanders.

"I just want to do what's best for the team, and if that's playing down the middle then let's do that, if I can do well at it," Miller told reporters on Friday. "I know the coaches are going to do what's best for the team. I think at the end of the day, I think I can play both and I think that's helpful for me and the team. Whatever I'm going to start at, I'm going to try and do my best with that."

Miller said he had had conversations with the coaching staff in the summer following the June trade that sent Derek Stepan to the Arizona Coyotes, opening one of the spots down the middle. 

There's more defensive responsibility playing the pivot, and while it's been several seasons since Miller - who was drafted as a center in 2011 - did it on a regular basis, he said he's up for the challenge and fully expects himself to handle it.

"It's a responsibility I'm willing to take on," he stated. "I think they know that. I've proved I can play there before. I think we're going to feel that out and see how it goes and see where it fits. Obviously any responsibility they need me to take, I'm more than willing to."

The looks in preseason should help not only Miller but head coach Alain Vigneault, who said Miller's experience at center made him the natural choice to be added to the mix to fill the slot behind incumbents Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes, as well as with newcomer David Desharnais.

"I've got to go out and see right here early on at training camp, a guy like J.T. who has played that position before, how he looks, how he feels," Vigneault said. "He's not a young player anymore. He's a veteran player. I want to see that experience and I want to see what he can do at that position."

Vigneault said on numerous occasions Thursday that Miller has now transitioned into the phase of a veteran. While still just 24, Miller is entering his sixth season in the NHL.

More responsibility will come on the ice, and Miller is also looking to take more on off the ice as a leader following the departures of several players this offseason.

"We're getting older now. We're not young," Miller stated. "When I was 19 and first got here, it's a little different now. It happens fast, but that was one of the things I was worried about coming into this season. I want to be more of a leader and lead by example and be a consistent 82-game player. I think I can do that and I think it's time I stepped up a little bit more in that category."

Miller, who tied his career-best with 22 goals and set a new career-high with 56 points, said he's been preparing for this role for several years and is ready to take that next step.

"This is what they've been grooming me for the last handful of years to hopefully step up in a time like this, leadership wise," he said. "As a player, too, I think it's time I - I think I have more to give, another level, and I think I'm ready to take on that."

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