Is it time to give Dan Boyle a game off?
The veteran defenseman has played 22 consecutive games and hasn’t been as effective as he was in December.
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In fact, he is 0-for-January, without a point in the last eight games, and was a minus-1 with one shot in 19:57 against the Canucks on Tuesday night.
After Boyle, 39, was rested three times in seven games starting Nov. 15, he looked sharper and was productive, going 5-5-10 in 14 games beginning Nov. 30. So, Boyle could be rested in one of the final games before the All-Star break, with Dylan McIlrath drawing into the lineup.
Coach Alain Vigneault’s history indicates that he keeps the same lineup after a win, but that pattern could change. The Rangers have alternated wins and losses for 11 games.
For example, center Derick Brassard (flu), who missed his first game of the season Tuesday, likely will make the trip, which begins against Carolina Friday and ends in Ottawa Sunday afternoon. Brassard is likely to practice Thursday and if he’s healthy, Jayson Megna, who subbed against Vancouver, presumably returns to the bench.
If Vigneault sticks to form, Boyle will play Friday, but McIlrath, who has played only twice in the last 10 games, is fresher and adds muscle in front of the Blueshirts’ net, which has been a soft spot, and could play before the break.
With an off-day on Wednesday, Henrik Lundqvist, who has allowed two goals or fewer in five of his last six appearances, is expected to start against the Hurricanes. He is 3-1-0 with a 1.70 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage in his last four games and gives the team a solid chance to string together two wins in a row for the first time since Nov. 21-23.
Antti Raanta, who was victimized on Sunday (four goals on 23 shots) in Washington, his first full game since Dec. 12, is expected to play either in Ottawa Sunday or against the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden on Monday, the last game before the All-Star break.