Brian Boyle prepares to face former Lightning teammates
Veteran center Brian Boyle knows there will naturally be some emotions popping up during warmups Thursday night, when he faces his former Lightning teammates for the first time since a deadline deal to Toronto.
There are some great friendships and memories he built in his two-plus seasons in Tampa Bay, including back-to-back playoff runs. A reunion dinner tonight could be in the cards.
But when the puck drops there will also be motivation, the Lightning having shipped Boyle, 32, to the Maple Leafs Feb. 28 for prospect Byron Froese and a second round pick. Tampa Bay is 6-1-1 since the deadline, pulling to a tie with the Islanders for the final wild card spot.
"Obviously they got rid of me, they traded me - I guess they didn't need me that much," Boyle quipped with a smile. "So I've got to go out and prove, 'Listen, I'm on this team now. I'm here to win.'"
Boyle wasn't upset with the Lightning, doesn't have any ill will. It's more that this will be a huge game for both teams, the Maple Leafs just one point behind the Lightning (with a game in hand). With Toronto coming off what Boyle called an "embarrassing" loss to the Panthers, this will be a ticked-off team coming to Amalie Arena.
"There's a lot at stake here," Boyle said. "You have to be a pro and get over that in a hurry and go out and compete and battle and try to help these guys in here. They gave up something to get me, and it's on me, and it's on me to make sure I do my best to help this team going forward. And that's my responsibility, this is the team I'm part of now, and I'm really excited about that. There's a lot of attention on that after the deadline and you've got to show them what you've got. It's up to me. I've got to be at my best. I've got some friends over here, but it's put on pause for sure."
Boyle isn't surprised to see the Lightning go on this run, 12-2-3 after falling into last place in the Eastern Conference Feb. 2.
"It's always been there," Boyle said. "There's a lot of the same guys down with injuries, the guys that were called up have been around the last couple years, they picked up quick. They're playing well. They know the staple of the their game is speed and they've got the skill guys. Goaltending has been good. We've got a tough challenge."
Boyle was happy to be home this morning, getting a 5 a.m. wakeup call from 2-year-old son Declan. He said his wife Lauren, who is due to give birth to their second child in late May, has been able to make a trip up to Toronto, which has made the transition easier.
Boyle has been traded before, but never at midseason in a playoff push.
"It's been different," Boyle said. "You think of it as a long road trip, so to speak. But it's tough. You say goodbye to a lot of people, then say hi to a lot of people. In this eight hour window, you're kind of in limbo. You don't know where you stand. These guys have been great with me. A very welcoming place."
Lightning players admit it'll be odd to face Boyle, who was such a well-liked and respected leader in the room.
"It's going to be strange," Victor Hedman said. "But at the same time, it'sa game. We're the best of friends off the ice, but its' going to be different. We had a lot of routines together, warmups and stuff like that. He's a very good friend and it's going to be different but you've got to put that aside come game-time."
For defenseman Anton Stralman, who has been a teammate with Boyle for six years dating back to their time with the Rangers,
"It'll be fun," Stralman said. "He's for sure a high character guy that everybody wants to have in the room and on the ice. It's always tough to lose a guy like that. But nothing lasts forever in this league. And it's going to be fun to see him again."