New York Hockey: J.T. Miller

W2W4: Rangers at Capitals

October, 16, 2013

At a glance: A reeling Rangers squad hopes to get back on track Wednesday night in D.C. when they face Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals for the first time since bouncing them from the first round of the playoffs last spring. The Rangers are sputtering after a 1-4-0 start to the season but hope that a return to the Eastern Time Zone can help matters. The Rangers spent their first five games out West, but play the next three close to home including stops in D.C., New Jersey and Philly.

Shaking things up: The Rangers tailspin already prompted some changes, as the team waived both backup goaltender Martin Biron and gritty winger Arron Asham on Monday. To replace the veterans, the Rangers recalled 26-year-old netminder Cam Talbot to back up Henrik Lundqvist and summoned talented prospect J.T. Miller as well. Head coach Alain Vigneault already put some of his top-six forwards on notice with Miller’s recall. Though the 20-year-old forward is slated to start on the fourth line, Vigneault said he could earn himself a promotion if other players don’t earn their ice time.

Key injuries: Already missing Carl Hagelin, who continues to rehab his surgically-repaired shoulder, the Rangers are now without one of their other most dynamic wingers. Rick Nash will miss his third straight game since sustaining a blow to the head last Tuesday from San Jose’s Brad Stuart. Nash, who was placed on injured reserve Monday, was “still feeling symptoms” earlier this week, according to Vigneault, and does not appear to be nearing a return any time soon. Defenseman Michael Del Zotto will also be unavailable Wednesday night because of the flu; physical blue-liner Justin Faulk will draw into the lineup to replace Del Zotto.

Potent power-play: Washington hasn’t fared much better than the Rangers to begin the season – they are 2-4-0 through the first six games – but at least they can continue to count on their power play. The Caps lead the league on the man-advantage with a 36.4 efficiency rate after going 8-for-22. Ovechkin leads the team with three power-play goals, but newcomer Mikhail Grabovski has proven to be a nice addition as well with a pair of his own.

J.T. Miller, Cam Talbot recalled

October, 15, 2013
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- In the wake of Monday's decision to waive both Martin Biron and Arron Asham, the Rangers officially recalled J.T. Miller and goaltender Cam Talbot on Tuesday morning.

Both Miller and Talbot practiced with the team Tuesday and seemed eager about the opportunity to help a team that struggled with a 1-4-0 start.

"It feels unbelievable," said the 26-year-old Talbot, who car-pooled with Miller to New York Monday evening. "I was pretty excited. This is my first call-up so I'm just trying to make the best of it and help the team any way I can."

Talbot is expected to assume the backup goaltender gig behind starter Henrik Lundqvist now that Biron has cleared waivers and been assigned to the team's AHL affiliate in Hartford, CT.

The former University of Alabama-Huntsville netminder had a strong camp with the Rangers in September. Following an exit meeting with coach Alain Vigneault that he deemed "positive" Talbot got the sense he might get an opportunity with the big club before too long.

"I think when AV said I was in the running for the back-up [job] that gave me a little bit of hope that this could happen at some point," Talbot said.

Miller also made a strong case for himself after being sent down after playing the season-opener against the Coyotes. In three games with the Wolf Pack, Miller scored four goals. That made it an easy decision for Vigneault and the Rangers' brass when they huddled over who to bring up to fill the void left by Rick Nash's absence (concussion).

"That's what I expected," Vigneault said of the 20-year-old forward. "He went there, scored four goals, got some great scouting reports...the coaching staff over there said he played real well."

As far as what happens with Biron and Asham, both of whom cleared waivers Tuesday at noon, that remains to be seen. Though it appears Asham would accept an assignment to the team's AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, Biron didn't seem as sure.

The 36-year-old backup goaltender, who struggled in two appearances this season, did not rule out retirement as an option when asked Monday about the possibility. Read more about his thoughts on that here.

Two different sources told Tuesday that Biron planned to take some time before making a decision on his future.

Defenseman Michael Del Zotto missed practice with the flu on Tuesday. He did not make the trip to D.C. with the Rangers and is not expected to play Wednesday against the Washington Capitals.

Callahan set to make season debut

October, 7, 2013
The Rangers will take the ice at Staples Center for Monday's pre-game skate around 2:30 p.m. ET, but head coach Alain Vigneault already confirmed fans' hopes on Friday when he told reporters that captain Ryan Callahan would return for the team's second game of the season.

The 28-year-old Callahan, who missed the season opener, will be back in the lineup for the Rangers' tilt against the Los Angeles Kings. It will be his first game since undergoing off-season surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

For a Rangers squad that dropped the season opener 4-1 to the Coyotes on Thursday, that's very good news. More than just his offensive contributions -- he had 16 goals and 31 points in 45 games last season -- Callahan's relentless, rugged game sets the tone for the entire team.

Considering the Rangers tough start to the season -- nine games on the road following a rough 1-5 showing in the preseason -- they need him back on the ice.

• • •

After a somewhat-surprising demotion to the minors this weekend, J.T. Miller had an impressive debut with the Hartford Wolf Pack. The 20-year-old forward had two goals and an assist in the team's 4-3 win over the Albany Devils on Sunday.

It is believed that the Rangers sent him down to the AHL to allow the top prospect more quality minutes, rather than keep him around to play a limited role with the big club.

Rangers assign Miller to Hartford

October, 5, 2013
The Rangers have assigned forward J.T. Miller to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League, the team announced via press release Saturday.

Though this move appears to be in anticipation of captain Ryan Callahan's return on Monday, it is a bit surprising for a few reasons. One, they don't need the roster space (especially considering Carl Hagelin's trip to LTIR). Two, Miller had an impressive training camp that essentially forced coach Alain Vigneault's hand to keep him around.

Miller had two shots in 11:58 of ice time in the Rangers' 4-1 season-opening loss to the Coyotes on Thursday.

Lundqvist won't allow contract distraction

September, 12, 2013
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made it clear that any ongoing contract talks will cease if they threaten to distract the former Vezina Trophy winner on the ice.

The 31-year-old Swedish netminder said he won't let any haggling between the two sides get in the way of his primary task at hand.

"All I can say is that when the season starts I want 100 percent to be focused on my game and what I need to do on the ice. If I feel it's the slightest percentage, me thinking about my future and contract, we're not going to talk about the contract during the season," Lundqvist said after the team's first on-ice session of training camp Thursday.

"That's something we'll discuss if we don't have something when the season starts, but I know how I work as a hockey player and my attention's on the game and nothing else."

Asked if there is anything new to report regarding the discussion between his camp and the Rangers, Lundqvist said:

"I know they're talking. That's all I can say."

Lundqvist, who was 24-16-3 with a .926 save percentage and 2.05 goals against average last season, is entering the last year of a six-year, $41.25 million deal.

The franchise goaltender is seeking a significant raise, and deservedly so considering he has been the team's most consistent performer in recent years.

The Rangers are also locked in a contract stalemate with 23-year-old center Derek Stepan; the unsigned restricted free agent has declined to report for camp without a contract.

• • •

After missing half of last season with a frightening eye injury, defenseman Marc Staal is back on the ice and eager to get started on a new season.

"I'm excited to play hockey and get going," he said.

The 26-year-old blue-liner, who was struck in the eye with a puck during a game in March, said he skated a great deal more this summer in preparation for his return.

Though his vision still has not changed much -- his affected eye remains dilated -- the time spent on the ice has allowed his perception to improve dramatically.

"I think I'm just more adapted to it and a lot more used to it. The vision hasn't changed much, but the perception of what I'm seeing on the ice has gotten way better than when I was trying to come back during the playoffs," Staal said.

• • •

20-year-old J.T. Miller, who spent 26 games with the Rangers last season, left the ice during conditioning laps. According to coach Alain Vigneault, Miller tweaked his hamstring, though the injury is not believed to be serious.

Rangers recall 10

April, 28, 2013
With the regular season over and the Rangers' first-round opponent set -- New York will face Washington in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals -- the team has recalled 10 players from the AHL's Connecticut Whale.

This set of players essentially forms a taxi squad that usually practices separate from the main group. Should an injury require a lineup change, the Rangers have cast of players from which to pick.

The Rangers recalled forwards Ryan Bourque, Micheal Haley, Brandon Mashinter, J.T. Miller Brandon Segal and Christian Thomas; defensemen Stu Bickel and Dylan McIlrath; and goaltenders Jason Missiaen and Cam Talbot.

Of those 10 players, Haley will practice with the Rangers on Monday and will make the trip to D.C. for Games 1 and 2.

Miller, Kreider sent down

April, 3, 2013
Both Chris Kreider and J.T. Miller have been sent down to the AHL's Connecticut Whale, according to the AHL transactions log.

Rangers coach John Tortorella expressed concern about the young forwards on Monday night. Neither player saw the ice in the third period of the Rangers' 4-2 win over Winnipeg at Madison Square Garden.

"Quite honestly, I'm worried about the kids," Tortorella said. "Not that I'm upset with them. I just think the stakes are high. We play so many close games and I've just got to watch how they go through the game, do I trust them?"

Both players have previously spent time with the Whale this season.

Tortorella concerned about the 'kids'

April, 1, 2013
John Tortorella Debby Wong/USA TODAY Sports Rangers coach John Tortorella decided to play J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider in limited roles on Monday.
Monday's 4-2 win over the Jets was the type the Rangers so desperately needed following two straight shutout losses, but it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns from coach John Tortorella after the game.

Of course, the coach was proud of his team's fight, their resiliency, etc., but he did express concern over whether young forwards J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider can handle the responsibilities facing them at this point of the season.

Both players were limited Monday night. Kreider received only 3:23 of ice time and did not skate past his sole shift in the second period. Miller played only slightly more -- 7:08 over six shifts -- though he also did not see the ice in the third period.

"I'm worried about them. I'm worried about Millsy," Tortorella said. "You play so many close games [and] there are just too many mistakes ... "

But Tortorella's concern was not just directed at Miller.

"Quite honestly, I'm worried about the two kids," he said. "Not that I'm upset with them. I just think the stakes are high, we play so many close games and I've just got to watch how they go through the game, do I trust them?"

"I'm kind of up in the air there, quite honestly," Tortorella continued. "Because I don't want to screw up their development, either. But stakes are too high right now, so we'll see where we go with it."

W2W4: Rangers vs. Capitals

March, 24, 2013
At a glance: The Rangers look to get back on track after one of their most demoralizing defeats of the season -- a 3-1 loss to the last-place Florida Panthers on Thursday -- but they’ll host a Washington Capitals team in the midst of an encouraging run. Though they have toiled at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings because of their slow start to the season, the Caps beat up on the Winnipeg Jets in back-to-back games heading into this weekend.

Sluggish starts: Speaking of slow starts, look for the Rangers to come out of the gates buzzing, as their first period will likely be a point of emphasis. The Rangers were too passive against the Panthers and have too often let their opponents dictate play in the opening frame.

Offensive outburst: In their last two wins, the Capitals outscored the Southeast-leading Jets by a whopping margin of 10-1 to pull within five points of the division lead and three points of the eighth (and last playoff) spot in the Eastern Conference. After struggling through stretches this season, Alex Ovechkin is back producing at a nice clip; the dynamic winger has seven points (five goals, two assists) over the past four games and a power-play goal in the last three.

Close call: The Rangers must be feeling a sense of relief to have star forward Rick Nash in the lineup for Sunday’s match. Nash escaped supplementary discipline for a questionable hit on Florida’s Tomas Kopecky Thursday night. So many people thought the hit, which wasn't penalized, deserved a suspension that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety felt compelled to release a video explaining why the play did NOT pass the threshold for a fine or ban. That’s good news for the Rangers, who went 0-3-1 when Nash was sidelined last month with injury.

Back in action: It’s not surprising that the Capitals’ recent surge has coincided with the return of two of their top players. Veteran center Brooks Laich made his season debut last week after missing the first half of the season with a groin injury. Defenseman Mike Green returned for the Caps on Thursday after missing almost a month, also with a groin injury.

Miller out: It appears rookie forward J.T. Miller will sit out Sunday’s game with a left wrist injury, sustained in Thursday’s loss to the Panthers. Miller left the game briefly but returned; he is considered day-to-day. The Rangers recalled Kris Newbury from the AHL’s Connecticut Whale.

Miller comes through in shootout

March, 18, 2013
All alone against Hurricanes goaltender Dan Ellis with the prospect of single-handedly snapping the Rangers’ three-game losing streak, J.T. Miller didn’t deliver a deft backhander or a surgical snapshot, but he won the game nonetheless to give the Rangers a much-needed 2-1 shootout victory against Carolina Monday at Madison Square Garden.

The 20-year-old rookie actually lost the puck for a split second before recovering to skate wide and put home a sharp-angle shot in the third round of the shootout. Rick Nash also beat Ellis in the first round and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stood tall as the Rangers picked up a crucial two points at home and moved into ninth place in the East.

[+] EnlargeJT Miller
Scott Levy/Getty ImagesJ.T. Miller scoring a shootout goal against Dan Ellis.
Coach John Tortorella said he was simply confident that Miller was "going to make a play."

"He was going so slow I think he missed it three or four times before he scored," Tortorella joked. "He has some jam that way. He looks to make a play in the game."

"It certainly wasn’t a great move," Tortorella said, "but you give him credit just for having the [guts] to hold onto it and keeping it to put it in the net."

Miller had only been used in the shootout once before -- he fanned on an attempt in Ottawa -- and was trying to use the same move Monday against Ellis.

"It’s awesome, obviously," Miller said of being put in that situation. "I’ve tried the shootout before. I’m not superb at them, but I have a few moves so the fact that he has a little faith in me there means a lot."

Miller and his linemates Brian Boyle and Taylor Pyatt had some energetic shifts that helped define a second period that was drastically better than a first.

After coming out sluggish in the first twenty minutes, the Rangers re-racked during intermission to create and sustain pressure in the second period. That paid dividends, as they tied the game on Derek Stepan’s equalizer at 11:06.

It was a turning point of the game, and considering the dire straits the team faced following an abysmal four-game road trip, quite possibly a turning point of the season.

"I thought we got a little bit harder on the forecheck, we started getting pucks more deep and controlled them in their end," captain Ryan Callahan said. "I don’t think we spent enough in their end, obviously, in the first period. When we did that I though we built off of it."

Callahan’s line with Stepan and speedy winger Carl Hagelin was a productive one again. Even immediately after the game, Tortorella said he liked what he got from the trio, whereas he deferred evaluating the front-loaded first line of Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and Rick Nash until he watches the tape.

Lundqvist snapped his own personal four-game losing streak with a terrific 29-save effort.

"I’m going to enjoy this for sure," Lundqvist said of savoring the win despite the quick turnaround against the New Jersey Devils Tuesday in Newark. "It’s been a while since we’ve had this feeling."

The Rangers can’t waste too much time relishing the win, however, as they travel to New Jersey Tuesday for a re-match of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals.

The stakes are a little different now -- the 8th place Devils and 9th place Rangers are separated by a mere two points in the standings -- but important all the same.

"Obviously the two points are the big thing but on top of that we’ve got to go into Jersey and get another two points," Callahan said. "It means nothing if we don’t back it up in Jersey."

W2W4: Rangers vs. Capitals

February, 17, 2013
At a glance: Sunday marks the first meeting between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals since the two clubs faced off in the Eastern Conference semifinals last spring. The Rangers enter Sunday’s match coming off a 4-3 shootout loss to the Islanders on Thursday, while the Capitals have collected three straight wins.

No Nash? The Rangers might be without star winger Rick Nash when they host the Caps at Madison Square Garden. Nash missed practice Saturday -- the team said it was a "maintenance day" -- and also was absent for a season-ticket holder event on Friday night due to illness.

Without a morning skate for the Rangers on Sunday, it's not immediately known if Nash is available to play. But it seems the Rangers have a contingency plan in place. Just one day after being sent down to the minors, 22-year-old Chris Kreider was recalled, presumably as insurance if Nash can't play.

Missing Mike: The Caps will be without top defenseman Mike Green, who suffered a lower-body injury in the team's win over Tampa on Thursday. Tom Poti will replace Green in the lineup on defense, with John Carlson expected to assume the point on first power-play duty.

Power-play pressure: The Caps' power play has been one of the league's best through the first quarter of the season, although it may be hampered without Green, a key component to this unit. Washington enters Sunday’s game ranked fifth in the league with a 27.1 success rate, third among Eastern Conference teams behind the Islanders and Penguins.

Miller time: Rangers prospect J.T. Miller is expected to remain in the lineup Sunday. Playing against the Caps in his sixth NHL game will trigger the first year of his entry-level contract. But although that first year no longer slides, the Rangers are not married to keeping him up. The club will continue to monitor his progress and evaluate what is best for his development.

Kreider sent to AHL then recalled

February, 16, 2013
As the Rangers decided whether to keep rookie J.T. Miller with the team, and deal with the contract ramifications, they compared him to last year's playoff sensation Chris Kreider.

Ultimately, this year's hot rookie won out based on his play, allowing him to stay while the team demoted Kreider to Connecticut (AHL) for a day before recalling him Saturday.

"I don’t think (Kreider) did enough to get into the 20 here. It doesn’t mean he won’t at a point in time, but it’s a matter of going through the process," Tortorella said Saturday before the Rangers recalled Kreider. "This is all part of the process. I think Miller has done a little bit more, on the puck, getting to pucks, has made more of a difference. He stays, and Chris goes down and plays."

The Rangers had a five-game period to allow Miller to play without it affecting his contract. If he reached a sixth game, however, the first year on his entry-level deal would set off and the team would lose a year of control.

Miller played in that fifth game in Thursday's 4-3 loss to the Islanders, and it's looking like he will play that sixth game against Washington on Sunday. Tortorella said that Miller's contract situation had nothing to do with the decision to keep him with the team instead of demoting him to Connecticut. Miller has two goals in five games, both coming in one game against the Islanders.

"It's awesome. I'll obviously know more if I'm in the lineup tomorrow and playing," Miller said of being with the team for a likely sixth game. "As of now, I guess it seems to be like that. I'm trying not to worry about that anymore and go play."

After tearing up the playoffs last year, with five goals, Kreider just hasn't been able to find his groove this year. An ankle injury sidelined him for a few games, and when he has played, he hasn't shown those flashes he did during the playoffs. He has just one goal and one assist in seven games.

Friday, after being demoted, he played for the Connecticut Whale, and registered one shot on goal in a victory. His recall doesn't mean he's going to play Sunday and could just be insurance as forward Rick Nash missed practice Saturday for a maintenance day. The Rangers opted to originally send him to to Connecticut so he could be playing instead of just sitting on the bench as a healthy scratch with the Rangers,

"(Kreider) hasn’t played well enough to stay here right now," Tortorella said Saturday. "Again, that isn’t a criticism. It’s not a negative. It’s just where he is as a player right now."

RANGERS LAUNCH GO SKATE: The Rangers have launched "Go Skate!", a program designed to improve youth hockey accessibility in the area. The Rangers are hosting a free clinic on Saturday, free public skating on Sunday and Monday in New York and New Jersey, and their sixth annual youth hockey night Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. The program expects to reach more than 15,000 youths, according to a press release.

"I think if you talk to anyone who has been lucky enough to pick up a stick in their life, as soon as you put a stick in their hand their hooked," said former Rangers forward Adam Graves, who is helping with the program. "I think by having our own weekend and taking the focus and putting it on the game and the game at the grass roots, for these young kids, it's something they look forward to."

Rangers face decision on Miller

February, 15, 2013
It appears rookie J.T. Miller will be sticking with the Rangers, as the team has instead sent down Chris Kreider to Connecticut (AHL).

The Rangers had five games to decide whether they would keep Miller on the roster and trigger the first year on his entry-level deal, or send him back to Connecticut and gain an extra year of contract control. Thursday's loss to the Islanders marked Miller's fifth game, and with Kreider being sent down, it appears Miller will be on the ice when the Rangers host the Capitals at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

With Miller likely staying, here's a look at the 19-year-old's first five games on Broadway:

RECORD: The Rangers went 3-1-1 with Miller on the squad, achieving their only three-game winning streak of the season during that stretch, and also moving above .500 for the first time. He galvanized the team with his fantastic performance against the Islanders on Feb. 7.

SCORING: In that game, his Madison Square Garden debut, Miller scored a pair of goals to help beat the crosstown rivals. The Rangers had been searching for consistent scoring outside their top lines, and he provided it that night.

While that is the only game in which he scored, Miller is tied for sixth on the team with two goals. In fact, he has as many tallies as Brad Richards and Derek Stepan, despite the other two each playing eight more games than the 19-year-old.

Miller had two shots in each of his first three games, but managed just one over the past two against the Bruins and Islanders. In the win over Boston on Feb. 12, he was held without a shot. He had seven in five games -- more than Chris Kreider's total.

PLUS-MINUS RATIO: After tallying a +1 and +2 rating in his first two games against the Devils and Islanders, Miller has posted -1 ratings in two of the past three games. He had -1 ratings against the Lightning and Islanders, but did manage a +1 against the Bruins. For his five games he earned a +2 overall, which would tie him for the seventh-best mark on the squad.

PLAYING TIME: Miller saw the ice plenty to start, but it tailed off in the last two games. After playing at least 19 shifts and more than 13 minutes in each of his first three games, he had 15 and 13 shifts the last two contests. Thursday night, he had a season-low 13 shifts and 9:41 of ice time.

Boyle to return?

February, 14, 2013
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- If line rushes during the Rangers' morning skate on Thursday are any indication, Brian Boyle is set to make his return to the lineup against the Islanders.

Boyle, who has been a healthy scratch for three straight games, was centering a third line with Taylor Pyatt and J.T. Miller.

So, which forward comes out of the lineup?

It appears that will be 22-year-old winger Chris Kreider. Kreider was skating as an extra defenseman Thursday morning.

Goaltender Martin Biron was the first one off the ice this morning. Will he get the start against his former team?

Should know soon. Stay tuned ...

Decision on Miller looms for Rangers

February, 13, 2013

Thursday’s game against the Islanders will be a significant one for the Rangers organization, and not just for the opportunity to string together their fourth straight win.

The rivalry match will mark Rangers prospect J.T. Miller’s fifth NHL game, after which the club must make an important decision: whether to keep the 19-year-old center up with the big club or send him back to the team’s AHL affiliate to save a year of eligibility on his contract.

If Miller plays a sixth NHL game, that would trigger the first year of his entry-level deal.

“It’s something we’ll continue to talk about,” coach John Tortorella said after an optional practice Wednesday. “That’s all I can give you.”

Whether the Rangers are close to a decision -- or have made one already -- they are not revealing their hand just yet. What we do know is that the team likes what they see in the young, physical forward.

“He’s strong underneath the hash marks, both offensively and defensively. He has a ton to learn defensively but I like his willingness, I do,” Tortorella said. “I like his willingness to get to pucks and stay strong on pucks -- that’s a big part of our game we’re working on and concentrating on.”

In his NHL debut against the Devils last Tuesday, Miller was arguably the team’s most dynamic forward on the ice. In his first game at the Garden just two days later, Miller tallied twice to help the team knock off the Islanders on home ice.

But Tuesday’s performance in the team’s 4-3 shootout victory over the Bruins was not his finest.

“He’s a 19-year-old kid, playing center-ice -- a lot of reads down low, a lot of defensive responsibilities. He’s going to have some bumps,” Tortorella said. “I sill think he had some shifts where he was strong on the puck and did some good things there.”

“Was it one of his better games since he’s been here? “No, but we’ll see where it goes.”

One of the Rangers’ strongest assets is its organizational depth. In addition to Miller, a first-round pick (15th overall) in the 2011 draft, the club has gotten significant contributions from other top prospects such as Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider. Both players played key roles as rookies in helping the team along to the Eastern Conference finals.

Whether Miller will have a similar impact -- at least this season -- remains to be seen.

“We think he’s going to be a really good player,” Tortorella said. “We’re just not sure how quickly it’s going to come. Our situation as an organization is to watch that.”

Miller stressed that he won’t approach Thursday’s game any differently despite the implications. He’ll do what he can to further his case and hope the decision falls in his favor.

“I’m not worried about that. I can only worry about things I can control, and that’s me going out and playing the way I know,” Miller said. “Whatever happens, happens after that.”