Rangers’ Ok’Andre Miller not shying away from Sidney Crosby

PITTSBURGH — K’Andre Miller was 5 years old when Sidney Crosby was drafted first overall by the Penguins in 2005.

There is a 973-game disparity between the Rangers defenseman and the Pittsburgh star center. And Crosby had 177 playoff games compared to Miller’s three heading into Game 4 of the Rangers-Penguins first-round Stanley Cup playoff series Monday night at PPG Paints Arena.

Still, Miller and his defensive partner Jacob Trouba have drawn a bulk of the matchups against Crosby and the rest of the Penguins’ top line, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust.

When asked what it’s been like defending a player he’s presumably watched his whole life, Miller showed more respect to Crosby than he ever has on the ice.

“Watching him obviously for a number of years now, he’s a very skilled player with a lot of assets and he’s been kind of the rock in Pittsburgh for however long since I can remember,” Miller said. “I think getting an opportunity to play against him, having those battles and those hard shifts against him in the D zone, I think that’s experience. It’s pretty fun, it’s a cool experience overall.”

K’Andre Miller (left) has been physical in his matchup with Sidney Crosby (right).
NHLI via Getty Images

Dating back to the regular season, Miller has played Crosby as if he were any other NHL player. The 22-year-old has never backed down to the two-time Hart Trophy winner or let up on him just because he is who he is — a three-time Stanley Cup champion who has been a generational player. There may be unwritten rules in the NHL about going up against star players, but Miller has not once shied away from Crosby.

Miller just may be the Rangers’ X factor for getting under Crosby’s skin.

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“I kind of picked up where I left off at the end of the year,” said Miller, who has been one of the Rangers’ most effective defensemen in this series. “Being reliable, consistent and just being somebody to count on in the defensive [zone]. Obviously they have a very skilled forward group, so I think just trying to limit their chances and bringing that intensity every shift.”

In reflecting on his first three NHL playoff games, Miller said he didn’t feel like there was much of a transition. He acknowledged that he’s noticed how each team plays with a little bit more effort, but matching it and being consistent is the key to handling it.

Miller recorded two assists in the Rangers’ series-tying win in Game 2 and has ranked third on the team among skaters in average ice time (29:13), behind only Jacob Trouba (29:14) and Adam Fox (31:43 ). There seemed to be a turning point in the regular season for Miller, who suddenly started playing more physically and with more authority on the offensive side of the puck.

“We want K’Andre playing the same way he’s played all year,” head coach Gerard Gallant said Monday. “You’ve got to play physical in the playoffs, you’ve got to be a little bit more aggressive. I don’t want him going over the top, I want him to play the way he’s played all year and that’s been really good for us.

“He’s a big kid and he plays well. It’s playoff hockey and you got to step it up a little bit.”

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