Sunday, January 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Versatile Boyle, in final year of deal, giving Lightning bang for its buck

TAMPA — Brian Boyle can park his large frame in front of the goalie and tip a blast from the blue line past him, as he did in consecutive games last week against the Red Wings and Blues.

After talking with teammates about the need to sacrifice the body on what was a leaky penalty kill, he fell to the ice to block a shot to help nullify the Red Wings power play.

When injuries force Lightning coach Jon Cooper to juggle lines, Boyle can slide to defense to help make things work.

"He can play all the positions," Cooper said. "He's big. He's strong. He's smart."

Boyle — 6 feet 6 and 244 pounds, and in his 10th NHL season — is also a large voice in the dressing room, something the Lightning can use these days with captain Steven Stamkos and alternate captain Ryan Callahan out with injuries.

"When you're smart, you can pretty much play all positions, and he's really good at it," Cooper said. "He's a really good luxury for us to have."

Boyle, 31, is in the final year of a contract that pays him $2 million this season. With the team and organization stocked with young forwards, and with teams trending toward having younger rosters, it will be interesting to see what the Lightning chooses to do with him in the offseason.

Getting younger has its positives as long as a team has little to zero dropoff in talent. But there is much to be said for having a veteran voice in the dressing room and a veteran presence on the ice, especially when that voice and that presence can help in so many ways.

Boyle, who also has played for the Kings and Rangers, said he would like to continue his career in Tampa. Yet, he's aware that the NHL is a business.

And he knows that being versatile is good for his business.

He knows when Cooper sends him to play defense it's because the Lightning has a real need for him to do that and because he can handle the assignment.

"If I'm playing left (wing) or I'm playing right (wing) or center, it's just kind of on the (locker room) board," Boyle said. "They're the coaches. They don't have to ask anything. They're making rules. That's how it's supposed to work. You do your job. If your job changes — if I'm playing a different position or I'm going over to the right wing, where I haven't had a lot of rips at — I have to watch the clips, practice taking rips, it's up to me to prepare. We're on this team for a reason, and you better be versatile."

Boyle scored the game's first goal in the Lightning's 4-1 win against the Red Wings. Two nights later he started the comeback from a 2-0 deficit against the Blues with a second period tip-in that led to a 5-2 victory.

"You want to be part of a winning formula," he said. "If you are on the ice with so many good players in here, you better take it seriously and play really well cause you got guys counting on you."

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