Detroit — Just before the Red Wings were going to go their separate ways for the holiday break, a familiar face reappeared Tuesday.
Drew Miller took part in the morning skate, the first baby steps to returning to the lineup sometime in January.
Miller has been out since Dec. 3 with a broken jaw sustained after a devastating hit delivered by Arizona’s Klas Dahlbeck.
“It’s nice to get back on the ice,” said Miller, who skated on his own Monday briefly, but went about 20 minutes Tuesday picking up the pace. “The jaw is still healing up and there’s no real timetable (for a return). We’ll just have to wait and see how it progress.”
But being in the locker room, around his teammates, was a positive in terms of mental health more than anything.
Miller hasn’t been able to do much of anything after having surgery. He has not done much physically so as to let the plates settle in the jaw area.
“It’s great, definitely,” Miller said. “It’s been tough being away from the guys and the rink, it was a weird feeling.
“I’ve been around for games, supporting the guys, and being in the locker room, and it’s been nice for that definitely. But it’s nice to be on the ice, shooting pucks and feeling normal and knowing this is another step in the recovery.”
Another positive step Tuesday for Miller was knowing whatever metal was remaining around the jaw area to stabilize it was being removed later in the afternoon.
“Feeling normal again,” Miller said.
Miller has seen video of the hit, a hard, fair hit by Dahlbeck along the boards that left Miller dazed and woozy.
The only blame, in Miller’s estimation, falls on himself.
“It was a big hit but I put myself in a tough position,” Miller said. “I thought he would take the fake and go down the wall. I came back the other way and he was still there. That’s the game of the hockey and it happened and I just have to move on and concentrate on getting better.”
The original estimation after Miller had his surgery was of him returning in about four to six weeks.
That likely would mean Miller returning in early- to mid-January, probably during the Red Wings’ lengthy West Coast trip.
“A couple of weeks at least,” said Miller, of any possible return. “I know they put it at four to six weeks and I’m hoing it’s not six, and more toward the four side.
“But it’s hard to say. I just have to go day by day and see how the jaw progresses and get back my conditioning.”
One fortunate aspect for Miller was the way the jaw was broken. It didn’t need to be wired shut, so he was able to eat a soft diet — nothing too hard, but food like chicken as long as it was cut up into small pieces — and hasn’t lost any significant weight.