TRAVERSE CITY — Players competing for the last few spots on the Red Wings' roster in training camp could earn their stripes through special teams if they are able to pick up on new assistant coach Tony Granato’s philosophy on the penalty kill.
“The ideas that we have coming in with the new coaching staff is different but we welcome it,” said forward Drew Miller, a mainstay on the Wings' PK since he was claimed off waivers during the 2009-10 season. “We have to learn it and just be on the same page and be ready to go when the puck drops on the regular season.”
When the season does begin, there will be some difficult decisions to make as forwards like Miller, Justin Abdelkader, Luke Glendening and others lobby for ice time. Their ability as a penalty killer could be what separates one from the others.
“The penalty kill might not get the accolades that the power play gets but you have to have that balance on your team," Miller said. "I think the guys that are on our penalty kill do a great job and take pride in that."
The fourth-line forward race is a product of the injury-plagued season last year. Now, the Wings have a plethora of forwards with experience and only a limited number of roster spots to house them all.
“Last year, you kind of got an opportunity to play with everyone on the penalty kill and you have to be comfortable with them,” Miller said. “So whoever it is you have to be comfortable with them and be able to talk to them and communicate with them. I think that’s the biggest thing for our penalty kill is to have everybody on the same page and getting the communication going on the ice and make sure you read off of each other.”
The evaluation process will continue into the preseason as role players hope to display their value in Granato’s new system.
“Every training camp you go in with the mindset to take care of yourself and hope that everything kind of plays its way out,” Miller said.
Miller knows his role on the team is to be more of a defensive stalwart. He has led or finished second in short-handed ice time among Wings' forwards for the past three seasons. However, he would like to add a few more lines to his resume.
"I know coming in here that I’m not competing for the power play and I kind of know who I am," he said. "I just have to improve on that and chip in offensive. That’s one thing that I want to bring more to with whatever line I’m on, I want to be more offensive.”