Instead of a day off in Los Angeles on Saturday, and possibly playing in the Rangers' second game of the season Monday against the Kings, forward J.T. Miller could be in the lineup when the Hartford Wolf Pack open up their 2013-14 AHL schedule on Saturday night. That is because after playing nearly 12 minutes in the Rangers' season opener Thursday night in Phoenix, the club officially assigned Miller to the Wolf Pack on Saturday morning.
Though head coach Alain Vigneault was not available for comment, it would seem on the surface that the move was made to free up a lineup spot for team captain Ryan Callahan, whom Vigneault stated on Friday likely would return to action following off-season shoulder surgery on Monday. Callahan skated on a line with Brian Boyle and Taylor Pyatt during practice on Friday, and both coach and player felt afterwards that barring a setback with the shoulder Callahan should be ready to come off the Injured Reserve list and play against the Kings.
Saturday's roster move means that rookie Jesper Fast---who skated with Boyle and Pyatt in the Phoenix game---and veteran Arron Asham---a healthy scratch on opening night---are Vigneault's choices to skate in Miller's spot on the fourth line with Dominic Moore and Derek Dorsett.
Miller had a strong pre-season, scoring two goals in three games, after coming back from a sore hamstring. On Thursday Miller registered one shot on goal, one hit and one blocked shot. He scored two goals and added two assists in 26 games with the Rangers a year ago. However Vigneault has stated recently about other younger players---like Chris Kreider, Conor Allen, and Stu Bickel---that he prefers to see top youngsters play "big minutes" in the minor leagues than sit and watch, or play much less, at the NHL level, and that seems to be the thinking here again with Miller.
The 20 year-old Miller, the Rangers first-round selection in the 2011 draft, played in the AHL All Star Game last season, while also appearing in 42 games with the Connecticut Whale and totaling eight goals and 23 points.