Recently, there was some chatter as to whether the Rangers should deal J.T. Miller to add that top-pair, RH d-man that the team desperately needs. I was one of those vehemently against this. Miller's recent play has bolstered my argument that in no uncertain terms should he be moved. About six weeks ago, AV came under tremendous criticism for moving Miller down to the fourth line. The components of that criticism that related to what was viewed as a double-standard, since others with broader infractions got larger leashes and continue to make egregious errors with no ramifications is accurate. But, to say Miller shouldn't have benched was incorrect, especially as we saw last year how Miller reacted to the messages sent, which has repeated itself this season. Brett Cyrgalis wrote the below in the NY Post:
[size]J.T. Miller walked into the Garden on the morning of Dec. 27 after the NHL's three-day Christmas break knowing what was in store for him. It was for the start of that game against the Senators that Alain Vigneault dropped the 23-year-old forward to the fourth line after a 14-game stretch over which Miller produced only three points and a minus-9 rating, not the first time the coach has shown some tough love toward Miller.
Six weeks later, that night against Ottawa can be seen as a turning point of sorts for Miller, who has been showcasing his excellent play-making ability ever since while making more of the high-percentage plays his coach wanted to see from him at the time of his demotion, which Miller said he responded well to.
"I knew I had to be better," he said after the Rangers' 4-1 win over Anaheim on Tuesday, in which he had two more assists. "I went through a 15-20 game stretch where I wasn't creating much, I was forcing plays. You've got to go back and get a wake-up call. Coming into the locker room that morning I knew something was gonna happen. I didn't complain. It's hard at that point, but you've got to put your work boots on and try to get back to being simple, and when that happens things seem to open up. You get confidence and you get rolling."
Miller has been rolling to the tune of 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in his last 16 games, seven of those assists coming in the last four games, including two assists in each of the last three. With a team-high 42 points, Miller is one shy of his career-high set last season. He had 19 points in his first 22 games before the dry spell.
The bolded part is the key. Miller accepted responsibility for his mistakes, knew he had to be better and made the appropriate changes. The same also occurred with Chris Kreider. So, maybe AV does know what he is doing and Miller better stay together with Michael Grabner, as those two have tremendous chemistry. Hopefully, Kevin Hayes finds his sea-legs and NY ends up with three, 1a or 1b lines.
The lines, forward and defense, should be the same as the past few games. Same between the pipes, where I expect Henrik Lundqvist to start. Antti Raanta, who hasn't started since January 14, could get the nod Saturday.
Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Marc Staal-Nick Holden
Brady Skjei-Kevin Klein
(11:30 am update: Girardi will miss tonight's game with a bruised ankle suffered blocking a shot Tuesday. Holden will move up with McDonagh. Clendening back in w/ Staal, Skjei stays with Klein.)[/size]