AVALANCHE (4-8-5) at RANGERS (7-6-2)
TV: NHLN-US, ALT, MSG
NEW YORK -- New York Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle will be in the lineup for the first time in more than a month when the Rangers play the Colorado Avalanche at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
Boyle, who signed a two-year, $9 million contract with the Rangers on July 1, hasn't played since breaking his hand early in the third period of the Rangers' season-opener Oct. 9 against the St. Louis Blues. Boyle, who has missed 14 games, will replace Michael Kostka in the lineup.
In addition to returning to the lineup, Boyle is looking forward to playing at MSG for the first time as a member of the Rangers.
"Better late than never," Boyle said. "I was certainly upset not to be in uniform here on opening night, that's for sure. This was the most exciting rink to play in as the visiting team and it'll be nice to have the opportunity to play on the home side for a change. It's a special building; not just for the hockey but I'm a big music lover and there have been a lot of concerts here so it's a pretty special building."
Boyle likely will be paired with Marc Staal, his partner during practice Wednesday. He also will play a role on the top power-play unit with Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis. The Rangers enter play Thursday are 21st in the League on the power play at 14.3 percent.
Boyle said he expects to play through some pain during the game.
"The pain will be there for a little while; I think mentally you just have to get over that hurdle," he said. "Sometimes when you're injured you put yourself in positions to avoid contact, but I have to try and eliminate those thoughts and play my game.
"I said this when I signed here, that I don't want to come out and just float through it. I want to make a difference and hopefully I can be a positive influence."
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he's glad Boyle is back in the lineup, but knows it might take some time before he reaches a comfort zone.
"We have to be smart in our expectations [with Boyle]," Vigneault said. "He was here for training camp, two periods [in the opener] and then was out. He's an experienced guy and I'm sure he'll put himself in a position to do well. We have to be smart and do what we need to do against a team that obviously is going to be highly motivated. They've been challenged by their staff to respond so we have to be ready."
The Avalanche have lost four of their past five games, including a 6-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum. Coach Patrick Roy will have Daniel Briere back in the lineup. Briere, a healthy scratch the past seven games, will play right wing alongside center Nathan MacKinnon.
"It's tough to put a finger on what has gone wrong," Briere said. "When part of our game is going another part is not. And when that part gets going the other part isn't. But when you look around the room and see the potential and what this team accomplished last year, you know it can turn at any point. It's not just going to happen like that though. We have to get back to basics, but we know the potential is there and that's a positive thing."
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, who hasn't scored a goal in seven games, echoed those sentiments.
"If we put a good start together we can't follow it up with a good second period," he said. "We haven't been able to do that all year. It's either a good start or a good finish to the game and that's been tough. It's hard and frustrating, especially with the success we had last year with this group. So this is definitely something new for us as a team. But once we figure it out the success will be so much sweeter."
Here are the projected lineups:
Ryan O'Reilly - Matt Duchene - Alex Tanguay
Gabriel Landeskog - John Mitchell - Jarome Iginla
Jamie McGinn - Nathan MacKinnon - Daniel Briere
Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Maxime Talbot
Nick Holden - Zach Redmond
Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson
Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie
Scratched: Dennis Everberg
Injured: Patrick Bordeleau (back surgery), Brad Stuart (hamstring), Ryan Wilson (shoulder), Jesse Winchester (concussion)
Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Martin St. Louis
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello
Carl Hagelin - Kevin Hayes - Lee Stempniak
Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Jesper Fast
Marc Staal - Dan Boyle
John Moore - Dan Girardi
Matt Hunwick - Kevin Klein
Scratched: Anthony Duclair, Michael Kostka
Injured: Ryan McDonagh (shoulder)
Status report: Roy has changed his top three lines at the morning skate. Duchene was centering Tanguay and O'Reilly; Mitchell was between Landeskog and Iginla; and MacKinnon was playing between Briere and McGinn. … Fast will earn his second straight start on the fourth line while Duclair will be a healthy scratch. … Vigneault said after practice that 36-year-old free agent defenseman Tomas Kaberle, who has been skating with the Rangers since Friday, is expected to sign a professional tryout contract and play this weekend for Hartford of the American Hockey League.
Who's hot: Nash, who leads the Rangers with 12 goals and 17 points, has a point in 11 of 15 games this season. He has at least one goal in 10 of those games.