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Defenseman Boyle back in Sharks lineup

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle will return to the lineup Saturday against the Phoenix Coyotes after missing seven games with a concussion.

Boyle hasn't played since being knocked out Oct. 15 during a game against the St. Louis Blues. Maxim Lapierre hit Boyle from behind and sent him face-first into the boards.

Boyle has been skating for 10 days and took part in two regular practices during that span. He said he feels 100 percent healthy, but he hasn't taken a real hit since being injured.

"I was pretty lucky," Boyle said after the Sharks' morning skate. "It was a pretty scary incident, but the symptoms were pretty mild. I think it's important for me to get out there and get involved physically early, hopefully, and try and put that image that I have behind me."

Boyle said he can't remember the hit but has watched replays.

"I'm pretty fortunate to be where I am in comparison to where I was two weeks ago," Boyle said. "Hopefully there's no long-term effect or short-term or any lingering effect from what happened."

Boyle quarterbacks the Sharks' top power-play unit, and he's the team's top defenseman in terms of moving the puck and igniting rushes.

"He's one of the best in the world at doing what he does," Sharks center Logan Couture said. "Getting him back out there will be good."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan called Boyle "maybe one of the top two or three quarterback-type defensemen" in the NHL.

"So any time you take that out of a lineup, you're missing an elite player that can have a little poise with the puck," McLellan said. "He brings it up the ice extremely well, reads the forecheck and can adapt quickly. So it's his poise, his experience, his knowledge and reads of what's going on, and the power play has missed it."

Boyle, who has usually skated with Matt Irwin, was paired with veteran Brad Stuart during the morning skate. Irwin likely will be a healthy scratch and out of the lineup for the first time this season.

Rookie forward Matthew Nieto will return to the lineup on the third line after missing two games with a bruised right hand. After being injured Oct. 24 against the Boston Bruins in the third period, Nieto played the next night against the Montreal Canadiens with the aid of a pain-killing injection then opted for rest.

"I'm really excited," Nieto said. "It [stunk] missing a couple of games, but I'm ready to go out there again tonight. It's feeling better. It's feeling pretty good."

McLellan shuffled his top two lines, with forwards Martin Havlat and Tyler Kennedy trading places. Kennedy will skate with center Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl. Havlat, playing his second game of the season since returning from pelvic surgery, will be with Couture and Patrick Marleau.

"They're great players, we played pretty good together," Havlat said, referring to last season.

Sharks forward Brent Burns skated on his own Saturday but will miss his sixth straight game. He hasn't played since Oct. 19 against the Calgary Flames, when he was hit in the mouth for the second time in four games.

Coyotes center Martin Hanzal will return to the lineup after serving a two-game suspension for charging Edmonton Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry on Oct. 26.

"I'm really excited to be back," said Hanzal, who has 11 points, tied for second on the team. "It's been a tough couple days for me. It's tough when you watch your teammates and can't help."

Hanzal (6-foot-6, 230 pounds) plays a physical game, but Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said he has to make sure not to cross the line.

"You hope he stays out of trouble," Tippett said. "We need him to play a big, strong game. He's been a real good player for us this year, and getting him back in our lineup, we'll certainly welcome him back. He's got to watch some of the hits. He's a big guy. He has a tendency to come up on some people. We'll have to try to keep those out of his game, but the rest of it, he's got to play hard, play disciplined, and he can really help our team."

Coyotes defenseman David Schlemko (lower body) did not skate Saturday and will miss the game, with David Rundblad making his second straight start. Schlemko is day-to-day, Tippett said.

Here are the projected lineups for Phoenix and San Jose:


Mikkel Boedker - Mike Ribeiro - Shane Doan

Lauri Korpikoski - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata

Rob Klinkhammer - Antoine Vermette - David Moss

Jordan Szwarz - Andy Miele - Kyle Chipchura

Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris

David Rundblad - Michael Stone

Mike Smith

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Paul Bissonnette, Brandon Gormley

Injured: David Schlemko (lower body), Rostislav Klesla (lower body), Jeff Halpern (upper body)


Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Tyler Kennedy

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat

Tommy Wingels - Joe Pavelski - Matthew Nieto

James Sheppard - Andrew Desjardins - Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Brad Stuart - Dan Boyle

Scott Hannan - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Scratched: John McCarthy, Matt Irwin

Injured: Brent Burns (head), Raffi Torres (knee surgery), Adam Burish (back surgery)

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