K’Andre Miller looks a little different these days, in his second training camp (and first preseason) with the Rangers. He looks . . . . older.
"It’s the goatee,’’ his defense partner, Jacob Trouba, said with a chuckle.
The goatee is a new look for the 21-year-old, and has gotten him teased by his teammates. But that’s not the only thing that seems different about Miller. The 2021 NHL All-Rookie team performer seems almost more like a veteran these days.
"The biggest thing for me, I guess, would just be my confidence, probably,’’ Miller said Tuesday, before the Rangers’ 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins at the Garden in their second preseason game.
Miller earned an assist on Artemi Panarin’s goal late in the second period in his first ever NHL preseason game (the NHL didn’t have preseason games last season) when he got the puck to Panarin in the neutral zone as he headed to the bench on a long shift. Panarin (one goal, two assists) beat Boston goalie Kyle Keyser to break a 2-2 tie at 19:00 of the second.
Miller was happy to reunited in training camp with Trouba, who was his partner for most of his rookie season and who he said has been so helpful to him in making the transition from college hockey at Wisconsin to the NHL.
"He’s definitely a guy I look up to on the team and I think of him almost as an older brother,’’ he said of Trouba.
"I go to him with a lot of questions about hockey, non-hockey stuff, life, family stuff. He’s just one of those guys you can count on — a really reliable guy. And he’s been a great leader for me.’’
New coach Gerard Gallant has opted to start camp by keeping players together who have familiarity with each other. So Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider are together on the top line, and Panarin and Ryan Strome are together on the second line, joined so far by right wing Kaapo Kakko, who scored the second Rangers goal Tuesday. It also meant keeping the Adam Fox-Ryan Lindgren defense pair together, and keeping Miller with Trouba.
From the sound of it, Gallant doesn’t seem to see any reason to fix what isn’t broken.
"No. They played well together [last season],’’ the coach said.
"Obviously Foxy and Lindgren had a great year together and they played well, and I think Trouba and K’Andre — a veteran guy and young guy — it’s a good match right there. So I think we’re going to definitely start like that this year.’’
Miller said he spent his offseason working on speeding up the release on his shot, which he felt got blocked a few times last season because it wasn’t quick enough. He also worked on his skating, trying to quicken up his feet when it comes to making tight turns. Those are tough to make at his size (6-4, 216).
Notes & quotes: Anthony Bitetto, the only player in the lineup who played in the preseason opener Sunday, scored the game’s first goal, on a pretty assist from Panarin at 3:35 of the second period… Igor Shesterkin started in goal and stopped 11 of 12 shots in 30:21. Tyler Wall relieved him and stopped 14 of 15… Forwards Tanner Fritz and Austin Rueschoff and D Tarmo Reunanen were assigned to Hartford, leaving 42 players in camp.