Rangers' Brian Boyle plays important role, steps up his game in playoffs

Brian Boyle #22 of the Rangers celebrates a

Brian Boyle #22 of the Rangers celebrates a first-period goal against the Montreal Canadiens scored by teammate Carl Hagelin during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, May 25, 2014. (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Winning teams need versatile players and Brian Boyle will play wherever he's needed.

Under former Rangers coach John Tortorella, the 6-7 Boyle played left wing and center and scored 21 goals and 14 assists in 2010-11, which are career-high numbers. He played all 82 games in 2011-12 and 38 of 48 in 2012-13, but collected just 13 goals and 18 assists. This season, he was 6-12-18.

In the playoffs, however, he has risen to the occasion. He has eight goals and seven assists in the previous three playoff seasons for the Rangers, and excellent numbers in the faceoff circle and big minutes on the penalty-killing unit.

This year, in 17 games, he has two goals and two assists, is winning 54.3 percent of his draws and averaging 2:15 a game on the penalty kill.

"He plays real important minutes for us as far as penalty killing and a lot of times I'm not afraid at all to use him or his line against the other team's top line," coach Alain Vigneault said. "For whatever reason, ever since the start of the playoffs, I don't know if it's more attention on his part or better focus or whatever, but his game is better now than it was during the regular season."

Boyle was moved from wing back to center on the fourth line last night because Dom Moore shifted to injured Derek Stepan's spot between Rick Nash and Chris Kreider.

The visiting team had won in each of the three games, and Boyle said: "I thought we played pretty well at home last game, the crowd was awesome, but we want to elevate our game a little bit [Sunday]."

Blue notes

Until Sunday night, Derek Stepan (broken jaw) had never missed a regular season game (294) or playoff game (54) because of an injury . . . 64 teams have taken a 3-1 lead in the conference finals or Cup Final; 63 have won. Only the Devils, in 2000 over Philadelphia, have rallied . . . The Rangers' Raphael Diaz, Jesper Fast and Justin Falk were healthy scratches. For Montreal, Michael Bournival replaced suspended Brandon Prust and defenseman Francis Bouillon replaced Nathan Beaulieu.

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