Lineup questions await Bruins upon Kevan Miller's return

DJ Bean
November 29, 2015 - 12:27 pm

[caption id="attachment_54635" align="alignright" width="150"] Kevan Miller[/caption] Kevan Miller is practicing with the Bruins and Max Talbot has reportedly been placed on waivers again to open up a roster spot, so it shouldn'€™t be long before Miller is cleared to return from a concussion that'€™s kept him out of the last five games. The question will be whether a spot in the lineup will be waiting for him. Claude Julien won'€™t have an easy time deciding that in the coming days. The B'€™s have won every game since Miller went down, but Julien displayed unwavering faith in the 28-year-old defenseman leading up to Miller'€™s injury. Furthermore, the Bruins are still a work in progress in their own zone, meaning the B'€™s should not have their six blueliners set in stone at this point. If Miller were to re-enter the lineup, he would likely do so at the expense of a fellow righty in either Zach Trotman or Colin Miller. The latter has struggled in his own zone, with unforced icings costing the Bruins at points, but the pros of Colin Miller'€™s offensive game (he factored heavily into both the game-tying and game-winning goals last week in Detroit) might outweigh the cons of his defensive game in the eyes of Bruins coaches. Julien said the Bruins are taking it day-to-day with Kevan Miller. Asked if Miller would be a sure-thing to play once he'€™s ready, Julien scoffed. "Honestly, which coach is going to tell you three days before whether this guy'€™s a lock [to play]?" Julien asked. "I think it'€™s a matter of looking at the situation when it comes to that. I don'€™t think anybody should be a lock in. I think you'€™ve got your key players that you know are there every night, but there'€™s also some competition there. Our group back there has done a pretty decent job, so before I make that decision I'€™ll certainly take a little bit more time to think about it." Miller became something of a scapegoat for fans unhappy with the Bruins'€™ mediocre start to the season. Difficulty closing gaps allowed shooters too much space, resulting in goals against. Given that Miller does not bring much offensively, the bruising defender'€™s issues in his own zone led to questions of whether he was worth keeping in the lineup if he wasn'€™t contributing defensively. One would assume that the penalty kill was a big reason as to why Miller kept his spot earlier in the season. With the B'€™s missing Dennis Seidenberg for the first 14 games of the season, Miller was relied on heavily for big minutes on the PK. Miller is second to only Zdeno Chara with 3:21 of shorthanded time on ice per game; he and Chara (3:45 shorthanded TOI per night) are the only Bruins to average three minutes or more on the penalty kill this season. Yet the Bruins haven'€™t really missed Miller on the PK since he went out of the lineup. The Bruins, who ranked worst in the NHL in penalty kill efficiency at the time that Miller went out of the lineup, have killed off 15 of their opponents'€™ 16 power plays over the last five games. "Seids is in there, Zee is in there," Julien said after Friday'€™s win. "Those two guys on the left side have been good. Trots has been pretty good on the right and [Adam] McQuaid. I thought we had enough bodies for the penalty kill to do their job and they'€™ve proven us right so far." The Bruins next play on Wednesday, when they'€™ll face the lowly Oilers in Edmonton. The Bruins are hardly desperate to get Miller back, but then again the revolving door on defense has yet to slow for the B'€™s this season. They might be wise to stick with the kids they've got in there for now.