From a brief banishment to Hartford to a spot on one of the top three lines against the Devils on Saturday night, J.T. Miller's quick ascension is as much a symptom of the Rangers' hopes for the 20-year-old forward as their need for any type of spark in an underachieving lineup, coach Alain Vigneault said.
"We just felt that it was time to give him another look, considering how some of our guys are playing," he said Saturday morning.
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"The injury to [Derek Dorsett]. It was, in our estimation, time to give him another look."Miller, who sat out four games and was demoted to the AHL on Nov. 26, had one goal and one assist (minus-4) in 15 NHL games entering Saturday night. Still, the former first-round draft pick became the Rangers' best option. Derek Dorsett is nursing a sprained wrist and Benoit Pouliot's uninspired play forced Vigneault to sit him out.
Miller joins Derick Brassard and Carl Hagelin "in what we would consider one of the top three lines as far as lines that we think should be able to generate some offense on a regular basis," Vigneault said.
Pouliot, meanwhile, was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. He has two goals and three assists despite multiple chances in 29 games.
"Ben's been given a real fair opportunity and hasn't played to ours and his expectations," Vigneault said. "Tonight we're going to give the opportunity to someone else."
Which means that if he is productive, Miller -- who averaged about eight minutes in the final five games he played in -- can expect to play more than 10 minutes per game in this nine-game homestand, one in which Vigneault said he planned to go "a little bit more top-heavy" with his lines.
"I'm pretty excited," said Miller, who finished with 11:49 of ice time. "It would be a privilege to play on a line . They're both super-skilled players . . . I just want to make some room for those two."