DENVER - Has a turning point been reached with Dan Boyle?
We'll know more this weekend, but it surely seems as if Boyle's role with the Rangers is changing.
When coach Alain Vigneault was asked if Boyle, who was a healthy scratch against the Capitals on Tuesday night while Dylan McIlrath played, will be back in the lineup Friday night, he revealed that he was continuing to figure out how to reduce Boyle's playing time.
Vigneault said Thursday after practice that he had a "quick discussion" with Boyle, 39, last week, who was "not thrilled.''
"I haven't made up my mind on that one yet," Vigneault said. "We've got three games in four [actually five] nights. I had a quick discussion with Dan last week on [that] he's getting a little bit older. Sometimes when we play more condensed [in terms of schedule], I might consider giving him one of those days off.
"Obviously the player's not thrilled with that, wants to play every game, and I totally understand that. But I've got to look at the big picture and look at what's better for the team. We've got a back-to-back [Saturday night in Arizona] here. I'm not one hundred percent sure what I'm going to do."
Boyle has two assists in 10 games. He skated with Keith Yandle on the third pair in practice but was not in the power-play drills. That's not a good indicator for Boyle. Quarterbacking the power play was one of the reasons he was signed to a two-year, $9-million contract on July 1, 2014.
Girardi playing better
Speaking of defensemen, Dan Girardi, who has struggled at times this season, was reunited with captain Ryan McDonagh to face Washington, specifically Alex Ovechkin. The duo will be paired together on Friday night.
"The last three, four games, I think he's played a lot better," Vigneault said of Girardi. "Better decisions with the puck, tighter gap, you're slowly but surely recognizing him more on the ice. So that's very positive for our team.''
Miller playing better, too
With Rick Nash out with a sore back, Chris Kreider moved into Nash's spot on the first power-play unit during practice. The second power-play unit: Yandle and Kevin Klein at the points and youngsters Kevin Hayes, Oscar Lindberg and J.T. Miller up front.
Miller also took the wing on the second line, with Derek Stepan and Kreider.
Miller, who has been up and down in the lineup, including a stint on the fourth line against the Capitals on Tuesday night, is getting another chance to crack the top six.
"The scoring potential is something our whole organization believes that he has," Vigneault said. "He's been given some opportunities, hasn't quite grasped them on a consistent basis.''
"It always comes down to the same thing -- his decisions with the puck," he said. "I thought that last game, his decisions were better. There's some areas where he can take some risks, lower-percentage, higher-reward, but you've got to make the right play, the right decision with the puck. J.T was good.''
Henrik Lundqvist will start for the Rangers and 6-4 backup goalie Reto Berra (1-2-0, 1.79 GAA and .944 save percentage) is expected to be in net for the Avalanche . . . Extra forward Emerson Etem, who will be in the lineup for the fourth time this season if Nash isn't, says he isn't discouraged. "I tend to have slow starts and I've always gotten better,'' he said. "There's no reason to get down on yourself."