It was a bit like a belated birthday party. When defenseman Kevan Miller turned 26 on Nov. 15, he didn’t realize one of his most precious gifts was just around the corner.
The Bruins recalled Miller on an emergency basis for Thursday night’s game at TD Garden, and he made his NHL debut against the St. Louis Blues.
Though the Bruins lost, 3-2, in a shootout, Miller turned in a solid performance. His mother, father, brother, uncle, and girlfriend flew in from his native Los Angeles to be there. Miller said there was a lot of scrambling to make travel arrangements.
“It was pretty quick,’’ said Miller. “My parents didn’t get to catch the red-eye, they caught [a flight] this morning, so it was good.’’
Miller said that for the most part, he felt he fit in during the game, despite a slight delay at the start because of an ice issue.
“Right away, there was a pause at the beginning there and it took me a little bit to get going,’’ said Miller. “But I felt pretty comfortable for all three periods.”
Miller logged 17 minutes, 42 seconds of ice time over 23 shifts. He was credited two hits, a takeaway, and two blocked shots. He finished plus-1 and got a chance to participate in killing the Blues’ lone power play.
“That’s something I pride myself in, I like to be good on the PK,’’ said Miller. “It was nice to get that opportunity.’’
Miller started the game with Torey Krug, but before too long was paired with Matt Bartkowski, with whom he played in Providence.
“We’ve played together for a long time,’’ said Miller. “I’ve played with Krug as well and we find a little bit of comfort there, and it seemed to work out pretty well.’’
Miller has played in Providence for the last three-plus seasons after graduating from the University of Vermont.
He signed as a free agent Oct. 21, 2011, and got a long look in the Bruins’ most recent training camp, ending up the final player cut.
He said that experience was invaluable.
“The four preseason games really kind of kicked it in for me and being around the guys,’’ said Miller. “Obviously, I was a little nervous, but it’s been three years now and I got to get some preseason games in and kind of be around the team, and that definitely makes things more comfortable.’’
When asked about the NHL versus the AHL, Miller said it was a different level.
“I don’t know if it’s really speed or physicality,’’ said Miller. “There are guys in the right spot all the time. It makes my job a little bit easier trying to make their job a little bit easier. It’s a combination of both of those [because of the predictability of where everyone is going to be].’’
One person who was very pleased for Miller was Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon.
“We are very proud of Kevan and his NHL debut tonight,’’ said Sneddon via e-mail. “He’s always been one of the hardest-working players, so it’s nice to see that work pay off. Kevan is a fierce competitor and understands how to play to his strengths. Above all, he brings a great attitude and positive energy to the rink every day.’’
Sneddon said he saw NHL potential in Miller early in his college career.
“Kevan always displayed an NHL work ethic, toughness, and leadership,’’ said Sneddon. “He just needed to realize his strengths as a player, which he did by his sophomore year. He’s a physical specimen and always carried himself like a pro from Day 1 at UVM.’’
When asked what UVM did for his career, Miller smiled.
“It’s done loads of stuff,’’ he said. “I really kind of built my character as a player and as a person there. I think my character and my role as a hockey player really developed there.’’