For the first time in four games and more than a week, Brian Boyle slipped on the Rangers sweater Thursday night and got the chance to do what he loves most, play hockey. And after being a healthy scratch the previous three matches Boyle came out and played with the requisite passion and fire head coach John Tortorella was hoping to see from the 28 year-old center, despite the Blueshirts dropping a 4-3 shootout decision to the Islanders at Madison Square Garden.
"Brian played good tonight," was Tortorella's simple analysis following the game.
Before Thursday's contest the head coach was a touch more expansive in speaking about Boyle, who now has just one point (0-1-1) in ten games this season.
"I think Brian Boyle eventually needs to be a big part of this here," said Tortorella. "And I'm going to give him the chance."
Boyle, who watched the Blueshirts win three straight while he watched from the sidelines, wa sone of the Rangers most effective forwards on Thursday. Playing a confident power game, Boyle received a season-high 17 minutes 39 seconds worth of ice-time and contributed a season-best eight hits and five shots on goal.
After beginning the game dnetering the third line between J.T. Miller and Taylor Pyatt, Boyle found himself skating with Carl Hagelin and Rick Nash in the third period after Tortorella juggled lines and rarely used struggling veteran center Brad Richards.
"I think it was a little bit better," Boyle said of his play following the game Thursday. "I still want to make more of a difference. I still want to put the puck in the net. My forecheck was better, and I was getting the puck to the net a little more."
Prior to last night, Boyle has recorded only eight shots on goal through nine games. Against the Islanders he totaled five, all of which came from in-close to the net, and several of which were scoring chances created by him using his large frame to overpower the opposition to be in prime scoring areas.
A 21-goal scorer two years ago, Boyle is aware that he needs to create more offense on a consistent basis, while remaining a stalwart on the penalty kill and a reliable checking centerman. Before the game he pointed out the areas he needed to improve upon, and to his credit, all of those areas in his game were much better against the Islanders than they had been recently.
Following the game Boyle credited Tortorella with properly communicating what he wanted to see out of the Boston native, and not letting any concern go unspoken.
"(Tortorella) is great with his communication," explained Boyle. "We talked, and there's no waiting around. We have some big goals, and we have high expectations of ourselves. And he thinks I can give more and be a better player than I was showing, which is good because he is holding me accountable. I agree with him. I believe I can be a better player, and I'm trying to be."
The next step for Boyle will be to follow up Thursday's strong performance with a similar one Sunday night when the Washington Capitals pay a visit to The Garden.
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