GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault seemed to backpedal a bit Tuesday from his statements earlier this month, when he questioned prospect J.T. Miller's commitment after sending the 20-year-old back to the minors.
Vigneault did not backtrack on the message itself, but bristled about the notion that those comments were “pointed” remarks aimed at Miller. Vigneault said those comments could have been made about any player at that stage of his career.
“I would say those comments might have been interpreted by you as pointed," Vigneault said. "I would say to you that 95 percent of young players have to figure it out. They get help from coaches -- their minor-league [coaches] and they get help from their NHL coaches. Until they figure it out, they’re either gonna figure it out and become good NHL players, or they’re not and they’re going to be good minor-leaguers.”
“That comment made to him I could have made to any young player,” Vigneault added.
The amount of times the Rangers have shuttled Miller back and forth between the big club and the team’s AHL affiliate this season, however, has not been typical of the normal development process for a talented young player within the Rangers organization.
So it’s fair to say Miller might feel he has something to prove during his current stint, recalled to potentially serve as a playoff replacement.
“Once that happens, you try not to worry about the past. You just try to worry about the task at hand," Miller said after practice Tuesday. “You try to just focus, play well, and play my role and try to bear down on things off the ice.”
Miller led the Hartford Wolf Pack with 15 goals and 43 points in 41 games this season, and Vigneault thinks he can fill an offensive hole in the Rangers’ lineup if needed. Vigneault said he would have no problem playing Miller at center, his natural position, even though he has played on the wing in the past while up with the Rangers.
“We feel if one part of any line goes down he has the potential and skill set to be able to come in for an amount of time to fill that spot,” Vigneault said.
That time may come sooner or later, depending on Derick Brassard's status for Game 1 against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday. Though Vigneault sounded optimistic the 26-year-old will be able to play, Brassard left practice on Tuesday with an apparent injury and did not return.
Will Miller make his postseason debut at some point soon?
“It’s something you always wish you can be a part of,” Miller said. “It’s very special for me. I’ve just got to stay ready.”