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At the Rink: Sabres at Rangers

by Brian Compton

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- New York Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle missed practice Friday for personal reasons but is expected to play against the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

Boyle was one of a handful of Rangers who participated in an optional morning skate and told reporters afterward that he was ready to go.

"Something personal came up and I had to take care of it," Boyle said. "It was a tough couple of days but we'll get through it.

"I've been feeling better I think in the last handful of games than I have in a while. But I'm playing the way that I need to play in order for this team to win and that's keeping it simple, so it's a little bit different than what I'm used to. But you can't argue with nine wins in 10 games."

The Rangers (20-11-4) saw their eight-game winning streak end last Monday at the Dallas Stars in a 3-2 loss, but they bounced back with a 5-2 win at the Florida Panthers on Wednesday. Boyle entered that game with assists in three straight games but did not register a point against the Panthers.

Boyle was expected to provide a boost to the Rangers' power play when he signed a two-year contract July 1. But the veteran defenseman broke his hand in the season opener at the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 9 and was out of action for a month. He then battled the flu in late November and was sidelined for two games.

In 19 games this season Boyle has two goals, three assists and a plus-7 rating.

"Physically more than anything it's been harder than the mental part of it," Boyle said of the transition to New York after spending the past six seasons with the San Jose Sharks. "[I broke my] hand and then I was sick for … I don't know, three weeks. It seemed like it just wouldn't stop. So physically it's been a challenge, but mentally I think it's been pretty easy. The guys have been great and the organization's been treating me real well. It's been an easy adjustment as far as that goes."

Boyle had 12 goals and 24 assists in 75 games for the Sharks last season and has had 50 or more points six times in his career. Things haven't gone exactly as planned from an offensive standpoint, but Boyle said he's more concerned with making sure the Rangers continue to accumulate points in the race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I'm not getting as many looks as I have in the past," Boyle said. "That's because I'm concentrating on taking care of my own end and playing defense and putting the puck up to the forwards, so I'm not rushing the puck as much as I'm accustomed to and used to. I base my game on wins and losses at this point. I know I'm going to be judged on goals and assists, but I just care about winning. I'm not looking to win a scoring title at 38 or anything; I'm just looking to win hockey games.

"The last 10 games, nine wins, [yet] we haven't gotten that much back, so it's going to be tight. With the extra point ever since it's been put in the League with the shootout point and the overtime point, it's very hard to get away, so you just got to keep at it and hopefully at the end of it you're there."

Buffalo (14-22-3) will be aiming to end a three-game losing streak. The Sabres did not have a morning skate after a 2-0 loss to the Panthers at First Niagara Center on Friday. They are 1-6-1 in their past eight games.

Here are the projected lineups:


Matt Moulson - Zemgus Girgensons - Tyler Ennis

Cody Hodgson - Mikhail Grigorenko - Chris Stewart

Brian Flynn - Johan Larsson - Drew Stafford

Nicolas Deslauriers - Cody McCormick - Patrick Kaleta

Josh Gorges - Tyson Strachan

Nikita Zadorov - Rasmus Ristolainen

Mike Weber - Andre Benoit

Jhonas Enroth

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Andrej Meszaros

Injured: Brian Gionta (head), Tyler Myers (lower body), Torrey Mitchell (lower body), Marcus Foligno (hand)


Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Martin St. Louis

Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes - Lee Stempniak

Jesper Fast - Dominic Moore - J.T. Miller

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

John Moore - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Tanner Glass, Matt Hunwick

Injured: none

Status report: Benoit took Meszaros' spot in the lineup on Friday. Meszaros has one goal, four assists and a minus-8 rating in 26 games. … Hunwick and John Moore skated Saturday morning, but it is not known which of them will play against the Sabres. ... Staal did not practice Friday because he was attending his grandfather's funeral. He will participate in warm-ups and a decision will be made after that whether he will play.

Who's hot: Stepan has three goals and three assists in his past three games. … St. Louis has two goals and three assists in his past four games.


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