LOS ANGELES – The Red Wings lost a significant part of their penalty kill Sunday night in Anaheim when Drew Miller suffered a lower-body injury early in the third period.
The status of Miller’s injury was undetermined Monday morning as the team gathered at Staples Center for an optional skate leading to their game against the Los Angeles Kings tonight.
“Miller is a great asset on our hockey team, defensive guys like that are underrated,” Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “He can sort out the chaos of situations that happen in the course of hockey. He’s a great penalty killer. Certainly be a loss. We don’t know it means. It could be day to day, it could be longer term. We’ll find out later today.”
Miller, who is not expected to play Monday night, just returned two games ago from a broken jaw suffered in early December. He has a goal and two points in 28 games this season.
It’s believed Miller was injured during his only shift of the third period when he was hit along the boards by Ducks defenseman Shea Theodore.
“I saw it on video, I didn’t see it live,” Blashill said of Miller’s injury. “It was a fairly innocent play but nonetheless one that happened.”
Blashill said Joakim Andersson will draw into the lineup against the Kings, taking Miller’s spot on the fourth line with Luke Glendening and Tomas Jurco.
Miller missed 14 games after he had two plates surgically imbedded into his lower jaw following a head-on collision with Arizon defenseman Klas Dahlbeck on Dec. 3. Another extended loss of Miller will be colossal for the Wings, who rely heavily on his shot blocking and positional skills on the penalty kill.
Miller's 99 blocks last season led all NHL forwards during the regular season. It was the highest single-season total by a league forward in the last seven seasons. He’s also led all Wings’ forwards in blocked shots in each of the past five seasons.
Goalie Jimmy Howard and defenseman Kyle Quincey will also draw into the lineup against the Kings. Howard’s last start came nearly two weeks ago when he was pulled from back-to-back starts in December. Since then, Petr Mrazek has quietly taken control of the Wings’ goaltending duties, playing in 10 straight games, including eight starts.
Meanwhile, Quincey returns to the lineup for the first time since having surgery to remove bone spurs from his right ankle in November.
Blashill would not confirm, who will sit to make room for Quincey in the lineup, or if a roster move is necessary. Nor would the coach say what the Red Wings’ defensive pairings would look like against the Kings.
“We’ll make those decisions later on,” Blashill said. “We don’t have those decisions made yet so we’ll decide prior to game time.”
Part of the reason for Blashill’s vague answers is that the Wings don’t know the health status of Miller and how that will play in the team’s salary cap issues.
Jakub Kindl, who cleared waivers on Sunday, caught a commercial flight Monday morning from Los Angeles to Charlotte, N.C., where he will join up with the Grand Rapids Griffins. The move clears $950,000 from the cap, but it still leaves the Wings roughly $1 million over before Quincey can be activated.
As of Monday morning, the Wings were still waiting for the report on Miller’s MRI.
“We have until 5 p.m. Eastern to decide our roster moves so we’re still gathering information, specifically on Miller, where he’s at in terms of his injury,” Blashill said. “We may not have all the information at that point, we may, but until that point we’ll decide once we know.”
If Miller’s injury lands him in long-term injured reserve – which means the Wings’ forward would miss no fewer than 10 games and 24 days – they would get enough relief under the cap to activate Quincey.
Quincey is just excited to be back from his second ankle surgery in six months. He had spurs removed from his left ankle last off-season.
“Personally, it’s just keeping it real simple,” said Quincey, who last played Oct. 23. “You can’t practice game situations, there’s nothing like being out there in full speed and everything. That’s the biggest thing for me; keep is simple and let the game come to me. It’ll get better shift by shift.”
The veteran defenseman said he’s not completely pain-free, but it won’t affect his mobility.
“I’m far enough along that the medical staff is OK with little bit and it’s not going to go back and hurt long term,” he said. “That’s where we’re at and we feel comfortable going forward. So hopefully this keeps getting better.”