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J.T. Miller practices with second power-play unit

J.T. Miller #10 of the Rangers skates against

J.T. Miller #10 of the Rangers skates against the Chicago Blackhawks at Madison Square Garden on Friday, Oct. 3, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - On the eve of their longest road trip so far this season -- six days and three games in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary -- the Rangers continued to tinker with the slumping power play, which ranks 22nd in the league and is 0-for-its-last-11.

Associate coach Scott Arniel, who is in charge of the units, made some changes at Wednesday's practice, which he ran because coach Alain Vigneault was in Montreal for the funeral of Canadiens icon Jean Beliveau.

Rather than keeping regular lines together, as was the case on Monday, the first power-play unit had Rick Nash, Marty St. Louis and Derick Brassard up front, with Derek Stepan and Dan Boyle at the points. Nash and Brassard were on the second unit Monday, and Ryan McDonagh was on one point, so the first unit was loaded with proven scorers Wednesday.

And in a bit of a surprise, J.T. Miller was positioned in front of the net on the second unit, which included forwards Mats Zuccarello and Lee Stempniak, and McDonagh and Dan Girardi at the points.

Miller, who was moved into Chris Kreider's spot on the top line with Stepan and St. Louis against the Penguins because Kreider was scratched with neck spasms, scored a goal and played well in 14:18 of ice time against Pittsburgh. Kreider practiced Wednesday, but not on either his former line or power-play unit. Miller had those spots.

Arniel was not made available for questions afterward; the Rangers will practice Friday in Vancouver.

Miller, who made the team out of camp, has been up and down from AHL Hartford to the Rangers and back to Hartford for the past three seasons. He played 26 NHL games in 2012-13, 30 last season and just seven this year, and has said he uses the re-assignments as motivation.

"I've been here through Millsy's first couple of years and you can see it on the ice," Stepan said. "Each time he's been here, he's got more confidence than the last time. He's certainly learning the game down in Hartford, and really applying it . . . the mental aspects of the game. You have to be accountable, and that's part of the stuff he's learned."

Miller, who had 43 points in 41 games with Hartford last season and 15 points in 18 games this year, "makes a lot of plays when he's moving his feet," Stepan said. "He's got the ability to drive d-men down, pull up and find something behind him. He plays physical and gets to the front of the net."

The Rangers are 3-5-1 on the road, and both the Canucks (18-9-2) and Flames (17-10-2) have better records than the Rangers (12-10-4). "Western trips sometimes are good for a team to bond a little bit," Stepan said. "Right now, our focus is we've got to play for two points each night and we've got to make sure we put good efforts on the ice."

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