Miller takes brother's trade in stride Caps vet surprised but understanding

November 03, 1992|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

The first thing Terry Murray did when he arrived at practice yesterday was have a talk with veteran left wing Kelly Miller. It's the kind of priority a coach has when his team includes several sets of brothers.

Sunday night, Washington Capitals management traded Kelly Miller's brother, Kevin, to the St. Louis Blues for defenseman Paul Cavallini.

"I was a little worried about Kelly," said Murray. "But he says he understands the situation and he's a true professional. He knows the game needs to move on. Kelly has a lot of character."

The Caps always have admired Kelly Miller's work ethic, and it was one reason they were happy to acquire right wing Kevin Miller in an off-season trade for Dino Ciccarelli. The fact that Kevin also had shown himself capable of 20-goal seasons helped, too.

But Kevin arrived in less-than-best condition, and though he worked to get himself in good shape, the fact that he could not get untracked as a goal-scorer on a team desperate for goals took its toll.

The fact that defender Rod Langway, 35, seems to be slowing and probably will see his playing time limited this season also entered into the decision. If Kevin Miller couldn't score, at least the Caps could get a top defenseman to ease Langway's absences.

Langway sat out a game last week for the first time since before becoming a member of the Capitals in 1982-83. Yesterday, he missed practice because of a funeral, and Murray said he had not yet decided whether Langway would travel to Indianapolis for tonight's game with the Chicago Blackhawks.

"Rod and I had lunch and the plan coming out of lunch was: 'Play like you did last year and everything will be fine,' " Murray said.

Going into this season, Murray had hoped to cut Langway's minutes within each game without taking him out for an entire game. But circumstances change, and Murray said sitting Langway out "might represent a change" based on how things went in the first 11 games.

"You evaluate constantly," Murray said. "This is our first 12-gamsegment. We've got goal sheets and individual sheets -- any time we do make a change, whether it's changing lines or an individual in or out of the lineup, or whatever, we're trying to be very thorough. We're trying to keep everybody who is contributing in the lineup, but things change after some games."

Murray said the two toughest things a coach has to do is tell player he is sitting out -- "especially someone like Rod, who has been a tremendous player for the Caps over the years" -- and making trades.

When it came to trading Kevin Miller, brother Kelly said it did come as a surprise.

"I think the shocking part of it is that they didn't give Kevin more of a chance to show what he could do," said Kelly. "I think that upset Kevin, too. And I'd be lying if I said the whole thing didn't disappoint me. I am disappointed that it didn't work out.

"I liked having him around. It's just too bad the team got off to such a poor start. It amplified everything a hundred times."

The Caps, 4-8 and last in the Patrick Division, have scored just 36 goals while giving up 44. They will try again to begin turning things around tonight in Indianapolis.

"Getting Paul will add another strong defenseman to our core group, but our main problem is scoring goals," Kelly Miller said.

"Hopefully, guys who are out will get healthy soon and we'll start scoring. I think everyone is frustrated. It seems no matter how hard we work, the puck just isn't going in."

NOTES: The Caps reassigned defenseman Brad Schlegel to the Skipjacks. Schlegel played in seven games for the Caps, providing one assist and picking up six penalty minutes. . . When Caps center Dale Hunter was asked about the team's scoring drought, he said: "Let's hope goals are like grapes and they come in bunches."

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