GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Could the replacement of Dan Boyle by Dylan McIlrath for Tuesday night's game against the Jets be an omen? Depends.
After a subpar regular season -- although he had three goals and 10 points in the playoffs -- Boyle, now 39, is taking a while to get into a defensive rhythm, having trouble clearing the zone and not always connecting on the critical first pass.
McIlrath, who was born in Winnipeg, isn't the most mobile defenseman and hasn't played consecutive games in the NHL, so Boyle could return for Thursday night's game in Montreal against the Canadiens. It's hard to believe that coach Alain Vigneault would give up on him. But McIlrath, 23, whose skating has improved, could be spotted in to rest Boyle and other righties (Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein) during the season.
It also doesn't hurt to have the 6-5 McIlrath, who isn't afraid to clear the crease, and forward Tanner Glass, who will play in his second straight game, on board against Winnipeg, which plays a physical game and ranks in the top two in the NHL in average height and weight, based on opening-night rosters.
Jesper Fast, who has been replaced by Glass on the fourth line, also could be back at Bell Centre against the smaller, quick Canadiens on Thursday night. He's younger and faster than Glass.
When will Hank rest?
Another pertinent question: When is Henrik Lundqvist going to be given a game off?
Lundqvist wants to play as often as possible and has been very sharp. He certainly could start his fifth consecutive game in the Canadiens' home opener on Thursday night, and Antti Raanta then could take the reins in one of the home back-to-backs on Sunday (a 1 p.m. start against the Devils) or Monday night (against the San Jose Sharks).
Will Vigneault ride Lundqvist for six games? Very possible. But you'd think Raanta needs a start soon because he hasn't played since the fifth pre-season game against the Flyers on Sept. 28.
All Vigneault committed to publicly on Monday was Lundqvist's start against Winnipeg on Tuesday night.
Mets on their minds
Vigneault, who confesses he doesn't know much about baseball, nonetheless planned to watch Game 3 of the Mets-Dodgers NLDS. "Damn right,'' said Vigneault, who also had been following the Yankees. Lundqvist, who has become friends with Matt Harvey, also said he'd be tuning in.
The Swedish-born netminder is not in the Rangers' fantasy football league but enjoys watching the NFL "on the couch'' on Sundays, sometimes with his young daughters. Like many fans, Lundqvist prefers watching on television to going to the stadium. When he went to a game, he found the pace slower than he expected. At home, replays and cuts to other games keep the action coming, and as Lundqvist said, "The snacks are closer. No lines.''
A look at the Jets
The Jets are 2-1-0 after Monday's 4-2 matinee loss to the Islanders in Brooklyn. Backup goaltender Michael Hutchinson could get the start for the Jets; Ondrej Pavelec stopped 40 of 43 shots on Monday. Hutchinson, 25, was in goal in a 3-1 victory over the Devils on Friday. He was 21-10-5 with a 2.39 GAA last season but did not face the Rangers. The Rangers lost to the Jets, 1-0, in a shootout last Nov. 1 and beat them, 3-2, in Winnipeg on March 31.