LOS ANGELES — Unless things go very well for the Bruins and the Kings, Kevan Miller has made his last visit of 2015-16 to his home turf.
Miller, a 28-year-old native of Valencia, played at Staples Center on Saturday, logging 18:38 of ice time in the Bruins’ 2-1 loss. It was his second time playing in the rink for the Bruins. Whether there will be a third remains to be seen.
Miller’s contract will expire July 1. He is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. It’s no guarantee that Miller will return to the only organization he’s ever known.
Zdeno Chara, Adam McQuaid, and Dennis Seidenberg are under contract. Torey Krug, who will be restricted July 1, will command a significant raise because of his ability to produce at even strength and oversee the No. 1 power-play unit. Other RFAs-to-be are Colin Miller, Zach Trotman, and Joe Morrow. If the Bruins qualify all three, Kevan Miller could be the odd man out.
When asked whether he’s fretting about his next deal, Miller said, “Not too much. I think it’s in the back of your mind a little bit. At the same time, you’re just trying to focus on playing right now. I love it in Boston. I’d love to come back. Hopefully it works out.”
The stay-at-home Miller shares attributes with McQuaid and Trotman. They’re right shots. Their priority is strength in the defensive end, not creating plays up the ice. They don’t mind the rough stuff.
Miller, however, is the strongest skater of the group. His freewheeling movement, combined with his physicality, will draw interest on the UFA market.
“Kevan skates well,” said Chara, Miller’s most recent partner. “He’s a physical guy. He moves the puck well. He’s always a guy you can rely on. He’s handling the situations well. We’ve switched partners a lot this season, probably more than any other. That’s the way it is. We have to be able to play with everybody.”
Like most defensemen, Miller has played better alongside Chara than with anyone else. For now, it’s the top pairing the coaching staff prefers, even if Miller is not a traditional No. 2. While McQuaid is the team’s second-best shutdown presence, pairing him with Chara creates a top-heavy blue line.
Miller started the season in a valley, when his errors blew up in his face. He’s had to recover from a concussion and a banged-up shoulder, the same one that required surgery last year. But Miller’s been dependable recently riding shotgun with Chara. Miller’s bosses know what they’re going to get from the strongman: physicality down low, strength on the walls, and dependable positioning.
Miller, however, doesn’t know what’s to come after this season.
Little time to recover
The Bruins were scheduled to fly back home Sunday, then have a day off Monday. They will practice Tuesday, then get right back aboard their charter for an 8 p.m. game Wednesday against the Rangers. The Bruins will need to make a rapid getaway from Madison Square Garden to return to Boston in time for Thursday’s game against the Panthers.
For a team coming off a three-stop, zero-point tour of California, it’s not an ideal way to get back to chasing wins.
“[Saturday] was better, the second and third period, but it was a little too late,” Patrice Bergeron said after the loss to the Kings. “They’re good teams for a reason. Down the road, that’s what we’re going to face. We have to make sure we’re ready for that kind of hockey. We have to learn from it. We have [nine] games left and it’s not going to be easy.”
Randell keeps scoring
Tyler Randell continued his rapid goal-scoring pace when he snapped a shot past the Kings’ Jonathan Quick after an Anze Kopitar turnover. Randell has six goals in 27 games. He’s scoring at a rate of 2.87 goals per 60 minutes of five-on-five play, third highest on the team after Brad Marchand (2.9) and David Krejci (2.88). Randell has a team-best 33.3 percent shooting percentage. It’s not a sustainable pace, but Randell looks like he’s at least earned a third straight game . . . Before Saturday’s game, Ryan Spooner acknowledged neither he nor his linemates had been good enough to keep playing at their one-and-done pace. Spooner and Matt Beleskey landed three shots each on Quick. Jimmy Hayes, back on the third line after a one-game sitdown, didn’t hit the net with either of his attempts. “Right now, I find they’re too easy to play against,” coach Claude Julien said before the Kings loss. “They get a chance off the rush, but other than that, in the offensive zone, there’s not a lot of things going on as far as getting the puck back, winning some battles, and creating some opportunities.” . . . David Pastrnak (one shot in 13:03 of play) took a step back against the Kings after playing with bite against the Ducks. Pastrnak committed a first-period turnover to Kyle Clifford that gave Jeff Carter a good chance to score . . . The Bruins went 0 for 7 on the power play during the California swing.