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Kevan Miller misses Bruins practice with upper-body injury 11.18.15 at 11:15 am ET
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WILMINGTON — Kevan Miller was missing from Wednesday’€™s practice as the Bruins looked to regroup from a disappointing 5-4 loss to the Sharks on Tuesday.

Miller, who has played in every game this season, went to the trainers’€™ room during the third period of Tuesday’s game and did not play the final 10:44.

“Right now, all I can tell you is he’€™s got an upper-body injury,” Claude Julien said after the practice. “I don’€™t know the details of what’€™s come up with the assessment. We’€™ll try and give you guys some more when we do. Right now I don’€™t have more than to tell you it’€™s upper-body.”

With the exception of David Pastrnak, who remains out with a foot injury and is still on crutches, all other players were on the ice for Wednesday’€™s practice. Julien stuck with the line of Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and Jimmy Hayes, shuffled the third line and left the other two the same as they’€™ve been in recent games. The lines and defensive pairings Wednesday were as follows:


Seidenberg-Colin Miller

The 8-8-1 Bruins will host the Wild Wednesday at TD Garden.

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Kevan Miller: ‘I need to be better’ 11.13.15 at 1:26 pm ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

WILMINGTON — Call it being overused, call it a player still finding his footing after missing half of last season, but Kevan Miller hasn’€™t gotten off to the start he’d hoped for this season.

Miller has played in each of the Bruins’€™ first 15 games after missing the last 26 games of last season due to shoulder surgery. Miller, whose shoulder also kept him out for a stretch earlier in the season, hasn’€™t had a particularly pleasant return to game action. Used frequently as Zdeno Chara‘€™s partner, the 27-year-old has struggled both with the puck and without it, occasionally leaving shooters too much space as they enter the offensive zone. Thursday night’€™s game saw him turn in a costly turnover when he coughed the puck up in the defensive zone, leading to a Colorado goal.

“It’€™s a work in progress. You want to get better as you go,” Miller said of his start to the season. “This is my third year, but this is 100-something games. I’€™m trying to get better every game. There’€™s going to be ups, there’€™s going to be downs and we’€™re going to learn from that, but you want to make sure you’€™re consistent every night. I need to be better.”

Undoubtedly factoring into Miller’€™s struggles is the fact that he’€™s been used in a bigger role this season, something that perhaps could change once Dennis Seidenberg is up to speed. Miller has been given 20:21 of ice time per night, up over two minutes from last season’€™s 18:02 average.

Miller has also had much tougher zone starts than in either of his previous two seasons, as shown in this war-on-ice usage chart showing each of Miller’€™s three NHL seasons.

miller usage 2
When asked about Miller, Claude Julien‘€™s words sounded like they could have been applied to many of his defensemen, as Miller is certainly not alone in making costly errors.

“Right now, it’€™s not about how much leeway we give players,” he said. “It’€™s about how accountable you want to be as a player. You’€™ve got to work through those kind of things. You’€™ve got to minimize it. If you’€™ve been injured, and you don’€™t think your game is at its best, let’€™s keep it simple. Let’€™s do the right things here and try and make the right decisions.

“Again, it’€™s puck management. It doesn’€™t have to be complicated. It just has to be a simple game, and a lot of times, less is more. That’€™s what we have to understand.”

Now that Seidenberg is back in the lineup, the Bruins could view Miller as a potential option to spent the occasional game in the press box. Joe Morrow has been a healthy scratch the last three games, while Zach Trotman has sat in 12 of 15 games this season.

Miller still provides value, however, as he can kill penalties and be used on the left side in a pinch. He’€™ll just need better games ahead of him if he wants to solidify his spot.

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Bruins’ defense shuffle led to rare move from Claude Julien in recent games 11.12.15 at 12:56 pm ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

Claude Julien has been trying some new things with his lineup this season. He’s even separated Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, the Bruins’€™ current equivalent of Hall & Oates (assuming you’€™re smart and don’€™t underrate John Oates).

On defense, Julien’€™s experimenting has led to an unusual occurrence recently: a righty playing the left side. That’€™s very uncommon in the NHL, but when Julien opted to take left Joe Morrow out of the lineup for righty Zach Trotman, the result was a righty (Kevan Miller) having to play his off-side. That will change once Dennis Seidenberg returns to the lineup (as early as Thursday evening).

The reasoning behind why righties typically don’€™t play the left side is simple: They never really learned to do it because they’€™ve never had to. With left-shot D outnumbering them, it’€™s so rare that a team would have more righties than lefties. As such, it’€™s common for lefties to have experience playing the right side — Dennis Seidenberg and Torey Krug play both sides well — but very uncommon for a righty to be comfortable over on the left.

“To me, it would be common if some of those guys really felt comfortable on those sides,’€ Julien said this week. “We’€™ve seen Dennis Seidenberg in the past play the right side and it doesn’€™t bother him to play his off-side. Some players are capable of doing that. Some others aren’€™t that comfortable because they’€™ve never done it before. We’€™re having to make some decisions here. There’€™s guys that are saying, ‘€˜I haven’€™t really done it but I’€™m willing to give it a shot,’€™ and I think we’€™ve seen enough from some of those guys to let them go there and do that job.”

Miller, one of four righties in Boston’€™s seven-man group, played the left side at times in college and in Providence due to lefties being injured at various points. Though he noted he’€™s had the odd even-strength shift here and there on the left side over the last few years — never many at a time — he said it took adjusting when playing the last couple games.

“There’€™s advantages and disadvantages,” he said. “Obviously on offensive zone faceoffs, you have certain one-timers out there and then you see different plays better sometimes, but obviously worse with others. You kind of just have to manage your game.”

Seidenberg appears close to returning, with Julien saying he’€™s a game-time decision for Thursday’€™s game against the Avalanche. Should both Seidenberg and Krug (also a game-time decision after taking Tuesday’€™s and Wednesday’€™s practices off) play, Miller will be free to return to the right side, assuming he stays in the lineup. Thursday’s morning skate saw Miller play on the right side of a pairing with Krug.

While he’€™s obviously more comfortable on the right side, he hopes the Bruins won’€™t hesitate to use him on the left if need be in the future.

“I feel like everybody would probably prefer to be on their strong side, but anything you can do to help the team, you’€™re going to do it,’€ he said. ‘€œIf they ask me to do it, then I’€™m happy to do it.”

Read More: Dennis Seidenberg, Joe Morrow, Kevan Miller, Zach Trotman
Dennis Seidenberg returns to practice, Kevan Miller and Joonas Kemppainen to make trip 10.29.15 at 10:23 am ET
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WILMINGTON — The Bruins saw one defenseman return and another one miss practice at Ristuccia Arena. Dennis Seidenberg participated in his first practice of the season, while Kevan Miller was absent after suffering an injury Tuesday against the Coyotes.

Also absent from practice was Joonas Kemppainen, who missed a couple of shifts Tuesday as well. David Pastrnak, who missed the last 8:48 of the game after taking a shot off the foot, participated fully in Thursday’€™s practice. According to Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald, Miller skated briefly before practice.

Claude Julien said after practice that Miller and Kemppainen will make the trip to Florida for this weekend’s games. Both are game-time decisions for Friday’s game, though Julien said he expects both to play.

“Today was probably more maintenance and allowing him to be better for tomorrow,” Julien said of Miller, adding that such was also the case for Kemppainen.

The forward lines in practice were as follows:


Should Miller and Kemppainen both play, the Bruins’ lineup would figure to be unchanged from Tuesday’s win over the Coyotes, which saw Zach Trotman and Zac Rinaldo as the healthy scratches. Trotman, who has been a healthy scratch for the last seven games, would play should Miller not be able to go.

Seidenberg has been out since training camp after getting back surgery on Sept. 24. He has been skating since last Monday, but Thursday marked his first time on the ice with teammates since the surgery.

“For him, it was more to get him a little bit more encouraged by being with other players out there,” Julien said. “He just did the line drills and the puck-moving part of it. He still has a ways to go; he definitely can’t take any contact, but just the fact that he’s able to be out there with us is definitely encouraging for him.”

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Claude Julien says Kevan Miller, David Pastrnak injuries aren’t serious 10.27.15 at 10:44 pm ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

Claude Julien said after Tuesday’€™s game that the B’€™s aren’€™t worried about the injuries that resulted in Kevan Miller and David Krejci leaving Boston’€™s 6-0 win over the Coyotes.

Miller went into the boards awkwardly on a hook from Tobias Rieder in the second period. He left the game for about 10 minutes, returned for two more shifts and then did not play the third period. Pastrnak continued to play after taking a shot off the foot early in the third period but missed the final 8:48 of the game.

Julien said that Miller, Pastrnak and Joonas Kemppainen — who missed a couple of shifts in the third period — were kept out because the game was out of hand and the team wanted to play it safe.

“We took [Miller] out more as precaution because of the score,” Julien said. “Same thing with Kemppainen; [he] left the bench for a while came back and Pastrnak got hit with a shot. At that stage, we didn’€™t want to risk anything more that we needed to so we sent those guys to the room.”

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Bruins defense a work in progress with season approaching 09.29.15 at 12:07 am ET
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Zach Trotman

Zach Trotman

Boston’€™s top goalie Tuukka Rask made his pre-season debut on Monday night at TD Garden, but his play really wasn’€™t what Bruins coach Claude Julien had his eye on.

Rather, it was the group of six defensemen who saw action in front of Rask that Julien was watching most intently.

“œWe’€™re evaluating more the back end than we were Tuukka,”€ Julien said. “€œWe’€™ve got some young €˜D’€™s€™ here and some spots to fill. Spots to win and spots to lose. So we’€™re looking closely at those guys on the back end. Some of those goals tonight [Rask] didn’€™t get much help.”

Boston dropped the final decision to Detroit 3-1, allowing at least two markers that didn’€™t thrill Julien in regards to his team’€™s play on that back end.

“œThat first goal a guy walks right into the slot,”€ said Julien of the game’s first goal scored by Detroit’s Drew Miller, with Boston’s defensemen Linus Arnesson and Kevan Miller near the crease some distance away.

And the second Detroit goal, with Tomas Jurko getting behind Arnesson and Colin Miller to make it 2-0?

“It was a mix-up there between our two D’€™s,”€ said Julien. “We laid it in [on the dump-in] and our right D changed hoping that our left D would go to right to be closer to the bench. Somehow they stayed in the same half of the ice and allowed them that breakaway.”€

Without the blue-line services of Dennis Seidenberg for several more weeks and Zdeno Chara for an unknown length of time, some of Julien’€™s young defensemen will need to raise their game when the season begins a week from this Thursday.

“œI think guys are getting used to having more pressure on them on the forecheck,” said Zach Trotman, who logged 18:39 of ice time Monday playing primarily alongside Torey Krug. “Getting used to reads. Getting some chemistry with other players and partners. We’€™ve gotten to play with each other for a couple games now. You’€™re going to notice that breakouts are a little cleaner, neutral zone is going to be a little cleaner. And then jumping up in the play and stuff and adjusting to the tweaks we’€™ve made to our system.”€

Those tweaks to the Bruins system are designed to help spark an offense that ranked 22nd in the NHL in goals-per-game (2.55) last season. However, timing is everything in making sure the defense doesn’t suffer.

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Now healthy, Kevan Miller admits injury could impact decision to fight 08.24.15 at 1:30 pm ET
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Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller

Kevan Miller established himself as one of the NHL‘s most menacing fighters as a rookie back. Then he had his second NHL season derailed by a fight.

Now fully recovered from shoulder surgery that ended his 2014-15 campaign in February, the 27-year-old admits that the consequences of dropping the gloves will be on his mind as opportunities to fight are presented going forward.

“It’€™s obviously a part of my game, but I don’€™t think it’€™s something that defines my game,” Miller told Monday. “I think that it’€™s something that’€™s definitely going to be in the back of your mind. Going into any fight, it’€™s in the back of your mind, getting injured, this and that. Having a shoulder injury issue is definitely something that will be in the back of my mind.

“I’€™m actually to the point now where I’€™ve been able to kind of hit the bag at home and feel OK. I feel really comfortable with my shoulder and where it’€™s at right now. Like I said, it will definitely be in the back of my mind, but I don’€™t think it will really affect me too much.”

Miller fought four times as a rookie in 2013-14, with each one making other players less and less interested in going against him. He first suffered a right shoulder injury fighting Sabres forward Nicolas Deslauriers on Oct. 18 last year, his only fight of the season. He missed the next 13 games before re-joining the lineup up Nov. 21.

Team doctors instructed Miller to not fight upon his return to the lineup, which lasted until he re-injured the shoulder on Feb. 16 against the Flames, ending his season.

Miller, who has been skating back home in California, said he has been completely healthy for roughly three weeks after being limited for much of the offseason.

Check back later for more from Miller as he enters his third NHL season and final year of his contract.

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