Rangers defenseman K'Andre Miller celebrates his goal against the Red...

Rangers defenseman K'Andre Miller celebrates his goal against the Red Wings during the second period at Madison Square Garden on Feb 17. Credit: Brad Penner

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- K’Andre Miller, in Gerard Gallant’s estimation, is a work in progress.

That is neither a negative or positive take. But this much is obvious: The Rangers coach is pleased with the second-year defenseman’s steady improvement over the course of the 2021-22 season. 

“He’s playing the way we want him to play,” Gallant said after practice at the MSG Training Facility on Saturday. “He joins the rush. He makes good offensive plays and he’s playing solid. He’s getting more physical defensively. So we like the growth.”

Miller's progression has been one of a myriad of encouraging developments for the Rangers this season. Both Gallant and Miller  pointed to the maturation in the details of his game.   

“Confidence with the puck,” Miller said when asked where he has improved. “I’ve been able to use my speed and my body a little bit more lately. I think that’s given me a little bit [of a] extra boost and the confidence to do a little bit more.”

And that comes from?

“Getting reps and seeing things in-game, watching video clips, breaking down the game,” Miller said.  “Anything you can do to really make those small adjustments in-game or out in practice. So that’s the biggest thing for me.”

Certainly, gaining experience is important. So, too, is working and learning from someone who has experience, and that is where defense partner Jacob Trouba comes in.

“Trouba talks to him all the time on the bench whether it’s a mistake or a good play,” Gallant said of Trouba’s mentorship.  “When you play with good players and veteran players like that, they lead. [K’Andre) couldn’t have a better partner for him.” 

One particular aspect that Trouba is known for is playing with a physical edge, with his 177 hits ranking 21st in the NHL. Miller's 105 hits are sixth most on the Rangers.

Big hits lead to opponents becoming distracted.  

“Throwing the body around and guys take exception a little bit,” Miller said. “Anytime you can get in someone’s head for a shift or two that will hopefully help the momentum; kind of shut them down and like I said just get in their head and throw them off a little bit.”

Puck movement. Check. Physicality. Check. Understanding the game. Check. 

So what’s the next area where Miller is looking to improve? 

Offensive production.

Ahead of Sunday’s late-afternoon match against Buffalo, Miller has compiled a slash line of five goals, nine assists with a plus-11 rating in 65 games while averaging 20:21 of ice time. During his 53-game rookie season of 2020-21, he totaled five goals and seven assists and was a plus-9 in 21:07 per game.

“It’s coming,” Miller said. “ That’s all I can really say right now. It’s coming. Obviously it’s frustrating every once in a while, not putting up the points. But I think that stuff will come with good play.”

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