CALGARY -- Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault shuffled the deck yesterday at practice in regards to the lines he'll deploy tonight against the Calgary Flames. But one duo he kept in tact was Kevin Hayes and J.T. Miller, and now Jimmy Vesey is hoping he's the beneficiary of flanking the two hottest Rangers.
"To be honest, I think any of our four lines is a great line, but I might be a little bit more excited to play with these guys now because I have some familiarity with them," Vesey told NYRangers.com after Saturday's morning skate at the Saddledome in Calgary.
Hayes and Miller have played 138:49 of even strength this season. In that time, Miller has two goals and six assists, while Hayes has three goals and four assists. Vesey is hoping he could slide seamlessly onto the left side based on experience with the two players.
"I've played with J.T. before and obviously I know Kevin really well," Vesey said. "I'm excited. They've been playing some really good hockey so I'm hoping I can jump on the line and be able to play as effectively as they have been."
Miller said the line must use its size and be willing to go into the dirty areas of the ice to have success against a team like the Flames.
"We obviously know how good he is with the puck," Miller said of the rookie Vesey. "He goes to the gritty areas and that's where he scores his goals. We have to make sure we're using our bodies as a line tonight to try and find each other. We've got to keep the puck out of our end as much as possible.
"For him," Miller added of Vesey, "when we're in the offensive zone you've got to be aware of where he is because he's so good at putting the puck in the net."
Miller said Vesey has been developing his game on the defensive side of the puck, something all young players must do to be successful in the NHL, and its something both he and Hayes have done to rave reviews.
"Me and Kev have come a long way, made some big strides from when we came into the League when we were younger," Miller said. "It's hard to defend in this league at the beginning. But you've got to learn how at some point because everyone has to do it. To be relief upon in that end of the rink a little bit more this year - it feels good to be relied on on that side."
Miller, who is averaging 1:18 on the penalty kill this season, besting his previous high of one second back in 2014-15. Miller said his experience at the World Cup of Hockey playing a depth role for a stacked Team North America helped prepare him for the role he'd be playing back in New York.
"I think that helped," Miller said. "I PKed my whole life up until the NHL and then just never really did it here. It felt good to have a little bit more of a role [at the WCH]. I didn't play many minutes, but the depth role is a great way to put it. I take pride in that and I take pride in the role I Have now with the team."