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Rangers' Boyle hopes holiday break revives game

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- Defenseman Dan Boyle is hoping the three-day holiday break helps revive his immune system so his energy returns to a normal level because he's admittedly been scuffling and hasn't delivered to the New York Rangers the type of offensive game he's capable of providing.

Boyle has two goals and no assists in 15 games this season. He has no points in the past seven games since returning from a two-game absence because he was sick.

"The last couple weeks, and I don't want to sound like it's making excuses, but I don't know what I have, if it's a cold or a New York flu," Boyle told Tuesday. "I've been fighting it a little bit energy wise. I guess I'm fine, but since I missed those two games definitely energy-wise I'm not where I need to be or want to be so it's been a little bit of a battle."

Boyle sat out consecutive games, Nov. 29 against the Philadelphia Flyers and Dec. 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He said he was tested for the mumps virus, but the results were negative. He will play in his eighth consecutive game Tuesday against the Washington Capitals, but he hasn't felt right, and his stats, or lack thereof, back that up.

Not only has Boyle been held off the score sheet, he has only eight shots on goal in the past seven games. For a defenseman who quarterbacks the power play, eight shots on goal in seven games is remarkably low. The Rangers are 2-for-20 on the power play in those games.

"I think statistically it's been absolutely horrific," Boyle said. "I've never been in this kind of statistic funk. I don't think I've been playing as bad as what my statistics may suggest. That being said, when you're an offensive defenseman people are going to look at that and obviously that's not where it needs to be."

Part of that does have to do with the fact that Boyle missed the majority of New York's season-opener at the St. Louis Blues and the following 17 games with a broken hand. He returned Nov. 13 and played the next seven games, scoring two goals and playing more than 20 minutes six times.

"After the hand injury it took a couple games and I thought I was at my best after that," Boyle said.

Boyle has been under 20 minutes in the past three games and four of the past five. He played under 17-and-a-half minutes against the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes last week. He said he is taking shorter shifts to conserve his energy.

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said yes when he was asked if Boyle looks like a player who is a step or two behind the pace of the game.

"Dan's biggest attribute in the past has been his offensive instincts; him jumping up in the play at the right time, him beating the forecheck, him being the quarterback on the power play," Vigneault said. "I'm very confident that he's capable of doing all those things, unfortunately he's had two tough situations here with the hand and the health, and it's taken him a little bit of time here to find his rhythm."

Boyle joked that playing the past six seasons in Northern California didn't prepare his immune system for the cold and flu season that is rampant in the Northeast.

"I haven't done too well responding to it, so hopefully this Christmas break will help," Boyle said. "We've been playing a lot of games, three in four nights here, three in four nights before that. I just haven't had that window of opportunity to shake it off, but I'm doing the best I can. So hopefully this Christmas break will help."

He's at least comforted by the fact that the Rangers have been winning, particularly with him in the lineup. New York is 10-3-2 when Boyle has played this season; it is 7-7-2 without him.

"I'm proud of the way the team has played, and at this point in my career that's what's more important to me, the win at the end of the day," Boyle said. "For the most part we've done pretty well with me being around. Not that it's because of me, but that's what matters most to me. Hopefully once I get my energy back the personal statistics will come back with it."


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