The Boston Bruins have done without rugged defenseman Kevan Miller for the entirety of the second round series to date, and they will need to make do for at least a couple more games without him as he recovers from his upper body injury.
Miller did not travel with the Bruins to Long Island after skating on his own prior to Wednesday’s Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and therefore won’t be playing in the pivotal middle games of the series at Nassau Coliseum. Miller suffered the injury after a hellacious hit from Dmitry Orlov in Game 4 of the first round when he launched off his skates and drilled the veteran Bruins defenseman with an impact that caused him to slam the back of his head on the ice.
The good news is that Miller is slowly recovering from a suspected concussion, but the Boston Bruins continue to make alternate plans without him while acknowledging they’ve taken a half-step back on the PK without him. Miller was fourth on the Black and Gold with his 2:34 of shorthanded ice time per game, and provided a nasty, shot-blocking presence on the right side of the defense.
The Islanders are 3-for-6 on the PP in the series against the Bruins through two games, and some of that directly relates to losing their top penalty kill defenseman being injured and unavailable.
“The timeline is he’s not here, so we don’t anticipate Game 3 or Game 4 for him,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, who also confirmed that, due to some mechanical reasons, the Bruins charter flight didn’t leave Boston until later on Wednesday evening than the team is accustomed to on road trips. “He’s easing his way back in. He’s made some progress, but obviously not enough that he’s back with the team.
“What it means is we lose a strong guy, a heavy guy and a veteran guy that’s exposed us a bit on the penalty kill. He’s played a lot of minutes there and we’ve had to use guys there that haven’t played [on the PK] quite as much. I think both [Connor Clifton and Jeremy Lauzon] are physical as well. Maybe not Kevan Miller physical, but they play hard and want to compete and make it tough on the opposition. That’s why they’ve stayed in the lineup.”
Otherwise, it looks like Craig Smith (lower body) is expected to return for Game 3 after taking part in morning skate at Nassau Coliseum and replace Karson Kuhlman, who will exit the forward lineup against the Islanders after a solid performance on the third line in Game 2’s OT loss. Here is the projected Boston Bruins lineup with Smith trending toward playing, Jeremy Lauzon sticking in the lineup and goaltender Tuukka Rask still healthy enough to man the pipes for the Black and Gold: