In the midst of the playoff push, the Checkers were dealt a tough blow when Andrew Miller was lost to injury over the weekend, with head coach Mike Vellucci passing along a tentative timetable of one month for the star forward’s recovery.
The injury occurred in this past Saturday’s contest against Syracuse when Miller got tangled up with an opponent, hit the ice awkwardly and headed straight for the locker room.
It’s a devastating loss for the Checkers as Miller led not only his team but the entire AHL in scoring at the time of his injury, racking up 51 points in 53 games.
“I told Millsy last week right before he got hurt how proud I was of him,” said Vellucci. “He’s been so consistent all year long, he’s been our leader on the ice. He plays hard and he practices hard. He’s done everything we asked of him and then he gets injured like this. That sucks.”
Miller has been a key part of the Checkers’ top line, a lethal trio of him, league goals leader Valentin Zykov and Lucas Wallmark. That group has been a nightmare for opponents when they’ve been together, so removing a piece of that certainly disrupts Charlotte’s top unit.
With Miller sidelined, Vellucci has his eyes on another offensive talent to fill that gap.
“Potsy [Andrew Poturalski] has been there before and he finished the last couple of games on that top line. They played really well and they’ve had a good week of practice. He’s similar to Millsy in that he’s got speed, he’s a right shot and he can shoot it and he makes plays. So that will help replace him up there.”
The coaching staff will also call upon the rest of the team to pick up that offensive slack, something this group is more than apt to do.
“We’re lucky to have depth so we’ll have guys pick up where he left off,” said Vellucci. “Then we have three other really good lines offensively too so we’ll be alright.”
If there is a sliver of good news it’s that the nature of Miller’s injury allows the forward to continue his hard work during the recovery time, hopefully allowing him to jump right back in when the time is right.
“It’s an upper-body injury so he’s going to be able to skate quite a bit here in about a week-and-a-half or two weeks,” said Vellucci. “Then he’ll do that for at least another two weeks before he’s back in the lineup. The good thing is his legs will keep him in good shape so we can get him into the lineup as soon as he’s ready.”