- The Washington Times - Friday, February 7, 2003

To say that Kip Miller has a love for the game is a no-brainer. He has played for eight NHL teams and seven more in two minor leagues during the past 11 years. He has been traded twice, been picked out of the waiver draft, been signed as a free agent seven times three times by Pittsburgh alone.
His older brother, Kelly, a Washington Capital for 940 games and now a New York Islanders assistant coach, says Kip is one of the five best passers in the game today. Jaromir Jagr, for one, won't dispute it.
Miller, 32, is in the process of backing up those statements. He was moved to the left side on Jagr's first line two months ago after tryouts by the usual and a few unusual suspects and a thorough search of the rest of the roster produced nobody who could do the job if Jagr's huge talent was to be utilized.
So the youngest of the three Miller brothers all NHL veterans and all (including Kevin) Caps at one time or another moved over and Jagr's play and production hit a higher note.
Miller's did, too. He has 43 points on 11 goals and 32 assists this season. The assist and points figures are career highs, and there are nearly 30 games left in the season.
Miller is a left wing at this level but usually plays center in the minor leagues, which is often. Playing in the middle allowed him to develop a knack for passing into blind spots while his back is turned, finding receivers where none should be.
"But it's not a blind pass," Jagr argues. "You look around and you see five guys from the other team and four guys from your team, and you know somebody is missing and somebody should be over there. So Kipper passes to where the guy is supposed to be, even if you don't see him. Understand?"
Said Miller: "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. When I started playing with him, he said, 'No matter what, get me the puck.' So I did. Who am I not to give him the puck if he wants it?"
The two are tied together and have developed a chemistry that neither can fully explain. They have not discussed what they're about to do; they just go out and do it. They operate sort of the way Kelly Miller and Mike Ridley the best penalty-killing duo in Caps history did.
"He's a very smart player," longtime teammate Robert Lang said of Kip. "He doesn't make what you call blind passes because he knows Jagr will be there. You have to be smart to make those passes. He anticipates, and he's usually right. He makes a good pass, and Jagr skates into it."
Said Miller: "Whenever I get the puck, I can sense where he is. I don't know why."
And Jagr: "He sees the ice really good, and that's the key. He can see what's going to happen before the puck comes to him. And it's not just me. He's a good passer, that's why."
Washington coach Bruce Cassidy has coached Miller for three seasons and has come to understand him perhaps better than others who have tried to coach him. Cassidy understands, for instance, that Miller's seemingly nonchalant attitude is not a true indication of his feelings.
"He'd have to have a passion for the game. He's invested the majority of his life to it," Cassidy said. "It's just he has no outward emotion. That's just the way he is. He doesn't get too high or too low, but it probably eats him up inside when he screws up. He cares, believe me, he just doesn't show it."
But the seemingly blase attitude probably cost Miller a job along the line, at the very least cost him a chance to play with a front-line player long ago when he was much younger.
"What hurt him the most was when he was young and in Quebec and they didn't give him much of a chance," said Jagr, referring to the team that drafted Miller 72nd overall out of Michigan State in 1987. "Sakic was there in those days, Forsberg, Sundin, and they were all young back then. If you don't make a name for yourself when you're young, you're kind of like a suitcase. They push you out."
Miller had a cup of coffee with the Nordiques in 1990-91 and played nearly half the season the following year. He had five goals and 15 points but was minus-21 and a label was hung around his neck not good enough for the top two lines, not tough enough for the third or fourth. He has been fighting that label ever since, in city after city after city.
"I was always trying to crack a lineup," he said. "You don't have room to make an error and when you do, you're done playing in that game and you're probably sent down the next day. Here I've played for Cassidy before and he knows the type of player I am, so I get to do the things I know I can do. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't."
Lately, they usually do.

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