Rangers Inside And Out
By Sean Hartnett
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J.T. Miller wasn’t supposed to be on the plane when the Rangers headed west to Phoenix to embark on a nine-game road trip to open their 2013-14 regular season campaign.
A nagging hamstring injury forced the 20-year-old to miss out on crucial opportunities to impress new head coach Alain Vigneault during training camp.
More importantly, Miller was absent from the Rangers’ lineup during the first three games of their preseason schedule. Fellow youngsters Danny Kristo, Marek Hrivik, Chris Kreider and Oscar Lindberg were getting vital chances to audition for Vigneault that Miller sorely desired.
“Obviously, I came in here dinged up a little bit — which wasn’t on the agenda,” Miller said. “It happens and I tried to work through it. I got a little behind and I tried to make up for it as quick as I could and as fast as I could.”
MILLER FORCED HIMSELF ONTO THE ROSTER
For those who don’t know Miller, his personality burns with an apparent competitive fire to succeed. Miller was itching for his shot to impress Vigneault. He firmly captured the attention of his new head coach by scoring a goal in his preseason debut against the Edmonton Oilers.
Miller proved to be one of the Rangers’ most consistent players over their final three preseason games. He shined brightly in their final tune-up in Las Vegas against the Los Angeles Kings. Not only did Miller score the lone goal in the Rangers’ 4-1 defeat, he was strong on the puck, skated with vigor and demonstrated a physical edge.
Vigneault had his players wearing training camp t-shirts bearing the motto: “Clean Slate – Grab It!” Well, Miller took that mantra to heart by winning a place on the Rangers’ roster despite long odds.
Miller survived the cut to begin the season, while Hrivik, Lindberg, Kristo and Kreider were sent down to Hartford. Swedish rookie Jesper Fast, 21, and Miller had claimed the final two forward spots on Vigneault’s regular season roster.
Vigneault said he is excited by Miller’s collection of abilities and is eager to cultivate the full talent of the East Palestine, Ohio native.