Boyle to get more responsibility
The way defenseman Dan Boyle did so well Friday night defending against Toronto's Mats Sundin (not to mention his three-point game and game-winning goal) apparently has given coach John Tortorella more confidence in transforming Boyle into one of those assignment defensemen. You recall the way Pavel Kubina always played against Jaromir Jagr and Cory Sarich always tried to handle Alex Ovechkin.
Boyle's responsibilities, though, would be even broader as he would be assigned to always handle the opposition's top players. He and defensive partner Paul Ranger and, for the most part, Lecavalier's line would be out against the other team's top lines. That is not a radical departure from what we've seen in the past, but Tortorella said Saturday he is going to make more of an effort to get Boyle out there in all those situations.
"What I'd like to do is have Danny play against the top players and get the puck to Vinny and our top line,'' Tortorella said.
"This is what I hope happens with our club,'' he continued, "that I can use Danny Boyle and Paul Ranger against the offensive people, defensively and offensively, do the job defensively and also get us out of there offensively.''
Last season, Sarich and Nolan Pratt, as the defenders against the top lines, did a pretty good job defensively. But like Tortorella said, "We couldn't get (our top line) the puck because Pratter and Cory couldn't make a pass. They played great defense, but the best defense is getting your players to go the other way and making them play in the offensive zone. That's what I'm looking for from Danny and Range.''
Other stuff from the morning meeting: Mike Smith will get his third straight start in goal after being acquired from the Stars. ... Michel Ouellet has goals in three straight games. Has the right wing turned a corner, or with the team out of the playoff chase, has the pressure come off? Ouellet said he is doing things the right way. "When I was having a tough time I was always thinking, 'What am I not doing well? Now, I'm not thinking at all.'' ... Defenseman Alex Picard had quite a couple of days after he was acquired from the Flyers in the Vinny Prospal trade. First he flew to join AHL Norfolk in Portland, Maine. When he was called up to the Lightning, his plane from Portland to Washington, D.C., from where he would catch a connection to Tampa, was canceled. The airline re-routed him to Philadelphia, where the plane he was to catch to Tampa was overbooked. Thankfully, he said, some passengers took the overbook buyout and he was able to catch the flight. ... Speaking of Picard, Craig Berube, his coach with AHL Philadelphia, said Picard was one of the league's best blue-liners. "From what I've seen on this team,'' Berube said, "he was the best there was.'' ... Tortorella's 234th career victory on Friday tied the late Bob Johnson for most by a U.S.-born coach. Not to disrespect Johnson, Tortorella said, "But I don't want to talk about my situation.'' ... Making a big impression Friday was Norfolk call-up Junior Lessard, who was a Hobey Baker Award winner in 2004 as the country's top college player and played 10:36 and had three hits against Toronto. Lessard was a senior forward for Minnesota-Duluth and had a national-best 61 points. "I liked his hitting and his passion,'' Tortorella said. "And he got there.'' ... Vinny Lecavalier continues to get points but not goals. His eight-game drought is his longest since January 2004. He also had a terrible day in the faceoff circle against the Maple Leafs, winning only 8 of 26 draws. ... Tortorella said he predicts Boyle will continue to get about 30 minutes a game.