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Brian Boyle may return soon for Rangers

Brian Boyle skates against the Washington Capitals during

Brian Boyle skates against the Washington Capitals during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. (April 30, 2012) Credit: Jim McIsaac

WASHINGTON - The Rangers will open the playoffs tonight without injured defenseman Marc Staal and forwards Brian Boyle, Derek Dorsett and Ryan Clowe, but don't count them all out for the short term.

Boyle skated in an optional practice at Verizon Center on Thursday morning for the first time since injuring his right leg in the first period against the Flyers on April 18. He appeared to move without pain.

"It feels good," he said afterward. "It's the playoffs, I want to be out there as quick as I can, so . . . I don't really know. I don't have any idea how it's supposed to work. I'm trying to feel as good as I can, as fast as I can. We have a whole staff of medical guys; I'm not the doctor."

Boyle, 28, has missed six games and declined to say whether he had skated on his own prior to Thursday.

The 6-7, 244-pound Boyle played in 32 games this season, had two goals, three assists and 145 hits and led the team in faceoff percentage at 56.4. "He looks good, he was flying around out there," said Staal, whose status is less clear.

"I felt pretty good," said Staal, who has missed 27 games since being struck in the right eye with a deflected puck on March 5 against the Flyers, and was scratched again. "I'll wake up and go at it again tomorrow," he said.

Staal, who has been skating for about a month, still has blurred vision and is adjusting. He said that if it were a game early in the season, he might test his readiness on the ice, but not in a playoff game just yet.

"When I can jump into a playoff-type game and not be hesitating or second-guessing myself out there, that's a big part," he said. "If you go out there in a playoff game and you're thinking too much, you're going to get yourself in trouble, and the team. If it's Game 10 or something, I might jump out there for a few shifts and see how it goes, right now the stakes are too high. The guys are doing a great job; I don't want to compromise that by going out there and not being able to compete at a high level."

Asked about a timetable, Staal said: "I'm not going to speculate down that road, when it's going to happen. When I feel I'll be able to help the team win and be successful, I'll get back on the ice. Hopefully that's sooner rather than later . . . Playoffs are the best time of the year and it's going to be tough sitting watching the guys, but they've been great down the stretch and it's made it easier to watch us be successful and win games; hopefully we can do that again tonight."

The Rangers also will be without Dorsett, who arrived from Columbus in the Marian Gaborik trade on April 3, and is recovering from a broken clavicle, which he sustained eight weeks ago. He skated again today and requires another CT-scan to determine when he can take contact in practice.

Clowe, obtained from San Jose on April 2, took a high elbow from defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti against Carolina on April 25 and has not skated since. He is traveling with the team and doing off-ice workouts. Clowe had three goals and eight points in 12 games.

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