Penguins Notebook: Miller's time arrives early with Rangers
Share with others:
One day after he turned 20, center J.T. Miller was on the ice at Consol Energy Center practicing with the New York Rangers.
"I'm not a teen anymore," Miller said after the workout Friday. "It goes fast."
It's been quite a winter for Miller, a former Pittsburgh Hornets player who grew up in East Palestine, Ohio, and has ties to Coraopolis.
He was part of a United States team dotted with regional players that won the gold medal at the world junior championships, then played in the American Hockey League All-Star game Jan. 28
After that came his call-up and NHL debut with the Rangers, who selected Miller 15th overall in the 2011 draft. Miller has two goals, four points in 18 games going into the matinee today against the Penguins.
"It should be pretty easy to get your emotions into the game, that's for sure," he said. "A lot of friends and family will be here."
Miller spent a lot of time watching Penguins games at Mellon Arena -- he finds it odd that the site of the old venue is now a parking lot -- and had been to Consol Energy Center just a couple of times before Friday, including a visit for the 2012 NHL draft in June.
Miller is living in Manhattan, which has been maybe as much of an adjustment as playing in the NHL.
"It's pretty crazy for me," he said. "I'm not sure if I'm used to it yet. I'm from a pretty small town. My town's, like, half the size of Central Park, let alone the city."
Miller has played primarily a third-line role for New York.
"He's a young man who has done some really good things for us," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "He still has a lot to learn, as a 20-year-old should. We're going to watch very closely because we still think he needs to develop, and we want to make sure we're not putting him in spots that are going to hurt his development.
"He's a real interesting one as we try to influx our team with young kids."
Miller is trying to keep the game today in perspective. After all, the Rangers have been struggling. Later, he can reflect on the past few months.
"I'm sure I'll be able to look back over the summer and say it was a pretty decent year," he said. "Right now, I feel I need to live in the present, especially when we need a couple of wins."
Reactions to realignment
Penguins players don't profess strong feelings for the NHL realignment plan that this week was officially adopted and will take effect next season.
"I kind of like it," winger Pascal Dupuis said of a four-division plan that has the Penguins retaining their four Atlantic Division rivals and adding Washington, Carolina and Columbus.
"Being here in Pittsburgh, the travel is going to be even less," Dupuis said.
The biggest change is in the playoff format. The top three teams in each division will be joined by two wild-card teams from each conference. There will be eight teams in each Eastern Conference division, seven teams in each Western Conference division.
"I think it's a new way of looking at the playoffs, but it still creates a situation in the West that there's a 14 percent greater chance of making the playoffs," Penguins winger Matt Cooke said. "We'll see how it goes."
Cooke said adding Columbus, which is switching conferences, is a natural for the Penguins.
"It's close. That's the thing," Cooke said. "Penguins fans go there to our games that we've had there in the past. You may even get some Columbus fans here."
Detroit also is moving to the East, and Winnipeg is moving to the West.
"There's no way that it was going to be perfect," Penguins defenseman Paul Martin said. "Most things aren't when it comes to having to negotiate something. I think it ended up being the best that they could do. You have to still win your games, try and win your division. I think it will work out."
Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, who has missed the past three games because of an unspecified injury, will not play today, coach Dan Bylsma said.
Malkin skated before practice in full gear with conditioning coach Mike Kadar.
The Rangers are expected to be without defenseman Marc Staal, who got hit with a puck near his right eye March 5 and has missed five games, and former Penguins rugged winger Arron Asham, who has a back injury and has missed 11 games. Staal did not travel with the Rangers, and Asham did not practice Friday.
Parade, parking reminder
Fans are reminded that there will be a 1:08 p.m. start today. The St. Patrick's Day parade downtown begins at 10 a.m. Most Consol Energy Center parking lots open at 10. Gates open at 11:30.
First Published March 16, 2013 12:00 am