In today's Baptist Health Practice Notebook, New Panther Brian Boyle joins the team for practice, Aleksander Barkov's feeling better and Frank Vatrano gets a very nice surprise.
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - Brian Boyle was excited to get back to work.
Just a day after putting pen to paper on a one-year deal with the Florida Panthers, the 34-year-old veteran center joined his new team for practice at the Panthers IceDen on Monday morning.
"It's really good to be down here," said Boyle, whose 6-foot-6, 245-pound frame made him easy to spot. "Getting out here for practice, it's back to work. I'm excited for and really thankful for it."
Boyle said he spoke with several teams in addition to the Panthers when the NHL's free agency period opened on July 1, but was left without a contract when training camps opened around the league in September.
"It doesn't always work out the way you think it should," he said. "I got a bit of a curveball."
Keeping in contact with Florida over the past several months, Boyle said he was focused on just "controlling what you can control" when it came to his preparation. Then, early on last week, he said he spent extra time at the rink and started to get a good feeling that a call could be coming.
"There was a little guy saying, 'Keep working because something's coming soon,'" he said. "It worked out. There were waves… I was up and I was down, some days when you're bummed out wondering if you're going to get the call and other days that you're excited. I've had a great career. I'm not owed anything by this league. It's a privilege to be in, and I'm happy I'm back."
Originally drafted 26th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2003 NHL Draft, Boyle's played in 766 career NHL games with 216 points. He also has blocked 532 shots and has 1,623 hits.
Competing in the postseason as recently as last season with the Nashville Predators, he's also registered 15 goals and 15 assists for 30 points in 114 playoff games. He played in the Stanley Cup Final in 2014 with the New York Rangers and again in 2015 with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Panthers defenseman Anton Stralman was a teammate of Boyle's during both of those runs.
"He's first and foremost a great guy," said Stralman, who joined Florida on a three-year deal this summer. "He's a great team person. He brings a lot of experience, a lot of defensive awareness. He's great on the PK and in faceoffs…. I've been fortunate enough to have him by my side for six years or so throughout my career. I'm looking forward to adding a couple more now."
Missing out on a traditional training camp, Boyle said he's spent the past few months working at Edge Performance Systems in Foxboro, Massachusetts - a 45-minute drive from his hometown of Hingham. In order to help simulate game situations, he also practiced regularly with the South Shore Kings, a Tier III Junior A team competing in the United States Premier Hockey League.
"They were unreal," Boyle said of his time with South Shore. "They were a blast, a lot of fun to be with. They were a lot of fun to practice with and hang out with. I followed their team a little bit. I watched them train and practice. They were fun because they were asking questions about different players in the league and different things in the game. It kept me distracted and away from the fact I hadn't signed yet. It pushed me, too. The practices were really upbeat."
Most recently, Boyle appeared in 73 games split between New Jersey and Nashville in 2018-19, registering a combined 24 points (18 goals, six assists) and winning 51.1 percent of his faceoffs.
"I'll hopefully fill whatever role needs to be done," Boyle said. "I still expect myself to contribute. I don't expect to be a cheerleader. I want to make a difference for the team on the ice. That's what we're in the business of doing. Helping the team win is really the only objective."
Wasting no time in putting his newest weapon to work, Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said Boyle will be in the lineup when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit BB&T Center on Tuesday night.
"We look at our lineup, and you can never have enough guys that can play in the middle, can take faceoffs and has that experience," Quenneville said. "He played a lot of playoff games, meaningful games. Big games are something that we want to get to. There's some veteran experience that's going to come out as we go through the season. He wants to be here, and I think it's a good fit in a lot of ways… Immediately, you could tell he was comfortable out there."
BARKOV FEELING BETTER
Aleksander Barkov was present and a full participant in today's practice.
Leading the team with six assists this season, Florida's captain exited Saturday's 3-2 shootout win in Nashville a few minutes into the first period and did not return due to an upper-body injury.
When asked for an update on Barkov, who scored 35 goals and set a franchise record with 96 points last season, Quenneville said the superstar center should suit up against the Penguins.
"He progressed yesterday and today," he said. It looks like he should be OK for tomorrow."
The news on Vincent Trocheck, however, was a little less clear.
After leading the team's forwards 23:06 of ice time in Nashville, Trocheck was the lone Panther absent from today's practice. Despite finishing the game and scoring the shootout winner, the second-line center did leave the ice for a little bit against the Predators after blocking a shot.
Trocheck, whose spot was occupied by Boyle in practice, has posted six points this season.
"He's questionable for tomorrow," Quenneville said.
Sergei Bobrovsky is a man of his word.
Having worn the No. 72 since the 2012-13 season, Bobrovsky received those digits from Frank Vatrano as a gift almost immediately after signing with the Panthers on July 1. In return, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner promised that he would find a way to repay his new teammate for the kind gesture.
Following today's practice, Bobrovsky made good on that promise, presenting Vatrano, who now wears No. 77, with a big bag food from McDonald's, a bottle of wine and a Rolex watch.
When asked about giving up his number in the summer, Vatrano said it was an easy decision.
"[Bobrovsky's] going to be a big part of our team now going forward," he said. "He's a guy that's done a lot in this league -- a lot more than I've done, and he's been around a lot longer. I think it was a no-brainer to give him the number that he likes to wear."
MONDAY'S PRACTICE LINES
Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Evgenii Dadonov
Mike Hoffman - Brian Boyle - Brett Connolly
Frank Vatrano - Denis Malgin - Jayce Hawryluk
Dryden Hunt - Noel Acciari - Colton Sceviour
MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad
Mike Matheson - Anton Stralman
Keith Yandle - Josh Brown / Mark Pysyk