K’Andre Miller deserves Rangers promotion if Ryan Lindgren is out

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
Danny Wild-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

As the New York Rangers prepare to play three of the best teams in the NHL this week, they will have to do so without two of their top-four defensemen. And with that comes a major decision for coach Peter Laviolette when it comes to K’Andre Miller.

Should the Rangers load up their top pairing with Miller and Adam Fox or try to balance the top two pairings? It’s a question Laviolette must ponder because Ryan Lindgren is out a “few weeks” with a lower-boy injury and Jacob Trouba remains out with a lower-body injury.

The Rangers are 5-1-0 without Trouba, Miller’s usual partner. Miller has formed an excellent pair with Braden Schneider during Trouba’s absence, which is expected to last at least another week or two.

Now Fox’s regular partner, Lindgren, will be missing some time. Lindgren left a 5-2 win against the Islanders on Sunday with what appeared to be a bad injury after a collision against the boards with J.G. Pageau.

“He [Lindgren] is a huge part of our team and we wish nothing but the best for him and hopefully he’s doing good,” Miller said Sunday.

Miller has played exceptionally well recently, with five points (one goal, four assists) in his past two games. He logged over 23 minutes each game this past weekend, wins against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Islanders.

The 24-year-old will be called on to play a big role this week when the Rangers host the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, visit the Boston Bruins on Thursday and two night later are back at The Garden to play the Florida Panthers. That’s a serious gauntlet, that could require Miller to move up and play alongside Fox.

“It comes down to the will in the locker room. We have a lot of guys that can step up, that are playing really good hockey right now,” Miller said after the Rangers’ win over the Islanders on Sunday.

Related: With eye on playoffs, Peter Laviolette tinkers with Rangers lineup

Why Rangers should pair K’Andre Miller with Adam Fox if Ryan Lindgren is out

NHL: New York Rangers at Toronto Maple Leafs
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

With Lindgren out of the lineup, it leaves a hole at the top pair left defense spot. A place Miller would slot into very nicely, and the numbers this season prove it.

The pair of Fox and Miller have played 50 minutes together this season and have arguably been the team’s best pairing at 5-on-5. The duo leads the team among pairings that have played at least 50 minutes together, allowing only 1.24 expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. That’s 0.83 expected goals better than the next pairing of Zac Jones and Erik Gustafsson.

They don’t just lead the team. Fox and Miller, as a pairing, are third in the entire League at limiting the opposition’s scoring chances at 5-on-5 according to Natural Stat Trick. With the Rangers still fighting with the Carolina Hurricanes for first place in the Metropolitan Division, but certain to make the playoffs, experimenting with this pairing against some of the best teams in the League could turn out to be a blessing.

The Rangers could opt to spread the wealth. They could keep Miller with Schneider, and move Erik Gustafsson up to pair with Fox. However, since Gustafsson and Schneider have played together most of the season, it’d appear to create an opening for Miller and Fox to skate together.

No matter the decision, Miller has shown the ability to step up and shoulder a bigger responsibility. That’s something the Rangers should tap into this week.

Steven Pappas is a North Jersey native who works as a news anchor and reporter at WHAM-13 in Rochester,... More about Steven Pappas

Mentioned in this article:

More About: