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Miller moves on after hit, broken jaw

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Once he returns to the Red Wings lineup, Drew Miller will need to wear a shield to protect his surgically-repaired jaw for an undetermined amount of time. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT Drew Miller skated Tuesday with a few teammates for the first time since needing surgery to repair a broken lower jaw suffered on Dec. 3.

Still a few weeks from returning to the lineup, Miller has been testing out a plastic face shield attached to his helmet beneath the visor.

“I tried it out yesterday and then back out today a little longer, 20 minutes,” he said. “It was nice to get on the ice.”

Miller was injured during a violent first-period collision with Arizona’s Klas Dahlbeck. A wobbly Miller got to his skates, but needed help from a linesman, who led the forward to the Wings’ bench.

“I saw the replay. It was a big hit but I put most of it on myself,” Miller said. “I put myself in a tough position. I thought he would take the fake and go down the wall and try to hit me and he came back the other way and hit me and I came back the other way and he was still there, so it’s the game of hockey and it happened and now I’m just concentrating on getting healthy and moving on.”

Dahlbeck’s hit was delivered with such force it fractured the middle section of Miller’s mandible that supports the lower teeth. Two metal plates weres inserted to the lower jaw to help healing.

A positive out of the break is that 180-pound Miller – the one Red Wing who could least afford to lose weight – didn’t have to have his jaws wired shut.

“I actually got lucky, the way it broke was not at the hinge points,” he said. “I wasn’t wired shut, I was able to have a soft diet. … It wasn’t like a normal broken jaw where guys are wired shut for 3-4 weeks. The surgery was able to stabilize it with plates and be on a soft diet for the first week and now I’m pretty much back to eating normal. I still can’t crunch on anything real hard. You get pretty creative with food and find ways around it.”

Still, Miller said he’s dropped two pounds over the past 2½ weeks.

“I haven’t done anything for two weeks and the first few days I wasn’t eating much,” Miller said. “I lost a little bit but I think I can get that back quickly when I get back in the weight room and get back stating.”

The injury brought an end to Miller’s streak of 190 consecutive games played, which at the time was Red Wings longest.

Miller plans to continue skating over the next week while trying to ramp up his conditioning, which he hasn’t been able to do too much of this month.

“After surgery you got to take some time and let it heal, let that bone settle in, can’t do too much to jar it around so the plates move around the bone doesn’t heal well,” he said. “Last two weeks haven’t really done anything, some light bike here and there. Mostly letting it heal.”

Dylan Larkin
LEFT WING  - DET
Goals: 12 | Assists: 11 | Pts: 23
Shots: 94 | +/-: 20
LARKIN’S BUDDY: Dylan Larkin was thrilled to learn this morning that his best friend in hockey was named captain of Team USA for the upcoming IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki, Finland.

Larkin and Zach Werenski have been close friends since they played together for Belle Tire. The pair were teammates at the U.S. National Team Development Program and again at the University of Michigan last season. They also played together at the World Juniors in Canada last December.

“I think he’s a true captain,” Larkin said. “I think it speaks to how hard he works on the ice, off the ice, and then just how good of a teammate he is. He’s a great guy around the room. He always does the right thing and he’s always prepared to play. He’s just a great guy. I’ve been with him in the dorms and everything, he could easily have a few bad things to say about some guys, but he’s never said a bad thing about a teammate. He’s a great guy and a great player.”

Larkin has so much respect and admiration for Werenski that the Red Wings’ forwards traveled to Sunrise, Florida last June to see his friend get drafted in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“Yeah, we’ve been together for a long time,” Larkin said. “We grew up together and then we went to college together. I have some great memories and just being a roommate with him kind of took it to another level. Then the draft, and being there, supporting him, was awesome.”

Pavel Datsyuk
Center  - DET
Goals: 3 | Assists: 7 | Pts: 10
Shots: 48 | +/-: 8
DATSYUK OF OLD: Pavel Datsyuk missed the first 15 games of the season as he recovered from off-season ankle surgery. While it’s taken him some time to get his engine revving to his standards, it appears that the Wings’ playmaker may have turned a corner.

The 37-year-old Russian has produced a goal and three assists with a plus-6 rating over the last five games. He has 10 points in 18 games played this season.

“I think Pavel’s been real good for a number of weeks now,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “It hasn’t necessarily resulted in production but it has resulted in chances. It has resulted in the things I measure and that I consider measurable as to whether you played good or not. You can’t necessarily make the puck go in the net but you can create chances and he’s done that on a consistent basis here for a number of weeks. The production’s come a little bit, but I think it will continue to increase at a greater amount as he continues to play at the same way.”

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