BOSTON – Kevan Miller isn’t a household name in the NHL, and he hasn’t even played a full season after paying his dues in the AHL for the last three years. But the hard-hitting, beastly strong defenseman has made a name for himself in Boston since coming up midway through this season, and his board-rattling hits were clearly missed in the first game of the playoff series against the Detroit Red Wings.
Miller had been hospitalized on Thursday night with the gastrointestinal virus that’s ripping through the Bruins dressing room, and was so sick on Friday that he could only watch Game 1 from his couch. After plenty of hydrating and rest, Miller sucked it up and served as a difference-maker for the Bruins in their 4-1 win over the Red Wings in Game 2 at TD Garden.
“It was tough to watch from my couch on Friday, so the adrenaline was definitely pumping once I got out in front of the crowd,” said Miller. “But it was pretty scary for me, to be honest with you. It was a scary situation. I’m just glad that I’m okay now.
“I ended up in the hospital. There were a couple of guys that had it pretty bad. I’ve had a couple of days not feeling great and I’m still trying to put all of the food back in, but I wanted to make sure I’d be able to play once I told them I was ready to go.”
Miller said he was so sick that he stayed overnight in the hospital Thursday after practicing that day with the team, and wasn’t able to start eating solid food again until noontime on Friday. They thought he had pancreatitis given some of the test results that doctors saw, but luckily things stabilized after he was giving IV fluids and slept the night under observation.
So now perhaps people have an idea how rough the gastrointestinal virus is that’s making its way through the B’s dressing room, and why Matt Bartkowski has missed the first couple games of the series.
Despite all of this Miller nearly played 20 minutes in his return to the B’s lineup, and made a giant physical statement early in the game throwing out hits at anything in a Red Wings jersey that moved. That was exactly what B’s head coach Claude Julien was looking for from Miller, a rookie defenseman that’s become an indispensable part of the lineup.
“[Miller] came back, practiced, missed again, practiced, and he seemed a little bit better, so that was a medical kind of decision on seeing who could handle this pace tonight,” said Claude Julien. “He was strong enough to do that.”
He finished with four hits and a couple of blocked shots for the Black and Gold, and helped bring back the key physicality that was a little lagging in Friday night’s loss in Game 1.
That was clearly by design.
“You wanted to go out there and set the tone early: let them know we were here to play,” said Miller. “That was our game plan. We did that throughout the game, and that seemed to work out for us pretty well.”
It’s good news for the Bruins that Miller and his punishing style of play are trending back to full strength after a nasty illness, and bad news for the Detroit Red Wings players in his crosshairs.