Colin Miller was thoroughly enjoying his first taste of the NHL with the Boston Bruins. The young defenseman, who was acquired back in June of last year in the Milan Lucic trade, was a plus-2 with three goals, 12 assists in 39 games.
Needless to say, Miller was solid for the Bruins whenever he was called on. But, after Adam McQuaid returned from an upper-body injury that kept him out a month, Miller was a victim of a numbers game and was subsequently sent down to Providence on February 16. Things only got tougher for Miller as McQuaid’s recovery, coupled with the Bruins’ acquisition of John-Michael Liles at the trade deadline back on February 29, gave the Bruins eight defensemen on their current roster.
In a way, things have been looking up for Miller. He has six points in eight games with the Baby B’s, splitting goals and assists evenly with three each. His biggest output coming against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in a 6-1 home win back on February 27 in which he had two goals (the first being the game-winner) and assisted on Frank Vatrano’s second goal of the game. Miller also added another goal and assist in three games this past weekend.
Usually when a player is demoted, there are certain aspects he will work on to make it back to the League. For Miller, despite being demoted, there are no real special adjustments in his game that he needs to work on.
“Nothing in particular,” Miller said when asked what he felt he could improve on. “They play a little different game down here [in the AHL], a little bit more puck possession and getting the puck up ice and stuff like that. So I’m just trying to incorporate that into my game and do what they want down here and hopefully it translates when I go back up.”
Miller is certainly no stranger to the AHL game. The winner of last year’s AHL fastest skater and hardest shot [with an AHL record 105.5 MPH shot] competitions, Miller had 24-45-69 totals in 135 games over two seasons with the Manchester Monarchs [now Ontario Reign].
Despite being buried on the depth chart, Miller is confident that if he can just stick to his guns and stay mentally prepared, he can find his way back into the Bruins lineup.
“[I] just have to play solid down here,” Miller said about his approach in Providence. “They have eight ‘D’ up there and they’re ready to go, they’re solid and they [Boston] are playing really good hockey lately, but nothing changes in my game and I just have to keep playing down here and be ready when that call [back to Boston] comes.”
That mentality of playing solidly no matter where he is can certainly win him some admirations in the Bruins organization. Coach Bruce Cassidy, for one, is undoutedly happy to have him on the back end.
“Oh yeah,” Cassidy said of Miller when asked if having him on the blueline would be a boost to the club after Providence’s 3-2 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins back on February 28. “He’s a puck-mover, he’s got the good shot, you saw it on Friday [Febraury 26, Miller’s two-goal games vs. Bridgeport], his offensive side came out.”
Keeping it simple and playing the game the way he knows how to play it is what will be key to Miller’s return to the NHL.
“One of the things he was asked to do when he came down is to not force the game, just play it, play the game in front of you,” Cassidy continued. “I’m not going to challenge him too much on that but on the same token he’s had success in this league offensively and getting his shot off so he will have to look [for his chances].”
Since his arrival in Providence, playing that simple game, as well as some help from his teammates, is working out well for Miller.
“The power-play has been good for us and obviously they have a very good team down here,” Miller said. “It’s easy to play with good players like Frank Vatrano, Austin Czarnik, Alexander Khokhlachev and Seth Griffith. They look for you and they find you so it’s nice to play with them and they make it easy.”