Programming note: Rangers-Sharks coverage starts Saturday at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California with Sharks Pregame Live.
SAN JOSE – Dan Boyle picked a good time to return to San Jose, considering he’d like to stick it to some of his former teammates.
The 38-year-old defenseman will be playing as a visitor at SAP Center for the first time since Jan. 16, 2006, and not only is he playing his best hockey of the season after a pair of health issues, but the Rangers are the NHL’s hottest team, with 12 wins in their last 13 games.
“There’s a lot of guys that talk smack for six years, and it will be fun to be on the other side of it,” Boyle said with a smile on Saturday morning. “You want to make sure you get the win, because there are a lot of guys that have big mouths and they are going to rub it in your face for a little while. We won’t get that chance to settle the score again for another year.”
Boyle missed the first Sharks-Rangers meeting in New York on Oct. 19 with a broken hand. More recently, a flu virus took the wind from his sails, and he said he wasn’t completely back to his normal self until after the Christmas break.
In his last seven games, Boyle has posted two goals and five assists, after getting just two points (both goals) in his first 15 games in a Broadway blue sweater.
He admitted that it could be an emotional night. The Sharks are expected to play a video tribute to their all-time leading scorer among defensemen at some point.
“This place means a lot to me,” said Boyle, who plans to retire to the Bay Area when his playing days are over. “It was six good years. Regardless of the end result, I think I left here with my head held high with what I left out there on the ice.”
When the Sharks chose not to re-sign Boyle, and eventually traded his rights to the Islanders before he became an unrestricted free agent, the defenseman said one of the reasons he inked a two-year, $9 million contract with New York was he wanted to play in a more hockey-centric market. Boyle spent the first 15 years of his impressive career with the Sharks, Lightning and Panthers.
Although he loved playing for the Sharks, he’s enjoying his new experience with an Original Six club.
“I don’t want this to sound negative against San Jose because it was absolutely great here, but it’s definitely more of a traditional hockey market,” he said.
“Obviously, the team has been around for a long time, a lot of history. And, the building itself is pretty special. MSG is possibly one of the best buildings in the World, not just North America. Just wearing the jersey – Brian Leetch was my favorite d-man growing up – all the little things that come with playing with an original six team.”
Boyle said he was paying attention to the Sharks earlier in the season more than he is now. He doesn’t harbor any feelings of ill will towards the club.
Except for Saturday night, of course.
“Hopefully they do well, with the exception of against us, of course,” Boyle said. “I wish them the best.”