GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The Rangers challenged Chris Kreider to earn his playing time and he responded.
Now, coach Alain Vigneault is trying to decide what to do with 20-year-old center J.T. Miller, who was a healthy scratch on Monday night against the Ducks. It's the age-old question: Is it better for Miller to play sparingly with the Rangers or on a top line at AHL Hartford?
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"That's a good question," Vigneault said Tuesday after practice. "Right now I've given myself the latitude in my mind, without sharing it with you, a certain number of games to sort out here what I have. I've only been to Hartford once, but I am talking to [coaches] down there on a regular basis to find out what would be the other options. But with what I've seen from J.T. so far, I'm hoping he'll be able to fit in in one of those [top 12] roles and contribute and get better. And as he gets better he'll take on a different role and as he gets better at that you move forward."
Vigneault said he has been told Miller could be a "high-end skill offensive player." But Miller has one assist in nine games and was upbraided by Henrik Lundqvist on Saturday for a mistake in the defensive zone.
"I think right now he's trying to find a regular spot," Vigneault said. "In theory, he is projected to be, at some point, in the top six. He should be able to with his skill set if he wants to maybe engage a little bit more defensively . . . He's a young player. We're working with him and we're confident we're going to get him better."
So will Miller return to the ice Wednesday night, when the Rangers host Pittsburgh?
"I'm going to do what's best for the team," Vigneault said. "If putting him in the lineup is best for the team, that's what I'm going to do. But at some point, you're absolutely right, they need to play a certain amount of minutes. Now, is it better to play eight minutes in the NHL or 20 in the AHL? I would say the right answer to that is each player is different and we just have to figure out what's best for each situation."
Notes & quotes: Vigneault said if he were "a betting man" he'd wager goalie Cam Talbot will start either Wednesday against Pittsburgh or Thursday at Columbus. Thursday looks more likely.