SAN JOSE – It wasn’t the start Dan Boyle or the San Jose Sharks were looking for.
In his first game since Maxim Lapierre’s dangerous hit from behind left him knocked out on the ice for several minutes in St. Louis on Oct. 15, Boyle couldn’t prevent a shot from Phoenix’s Antoine Vermette from finding the back of the net just 36 seconds into the Sharks-Coyotes game on Saturday night at SAP Center. Phoenix went on to a 3-2 shootout win.
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Although the goal wasn’t completely Boyle’s fault – Brad Stuart was caught out of position and Antti Niemi probably should have gloved it – it was an ominous beginning.
But, Boyle overcame what appeared to be some early jitters, and scored a power play goal in the second period to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead they would eventually surrender. After his pinpoint wrist shot found a space over Mike Smith’s shoulder, Boyle reacted by pumping both fists towards the sky and slamming the glass in joyous celebration.
He summarized his first game back.
“Not great. I think I expect a lot out of myself, as you guys know,” Boyle said. “I had to be realistic, too. I knew I was going to be not as good as I want to be, and that’s pretty much what I think happened. Definitely didn’t feel like my normal self out there, but that was to be expected. I’ll definitely get better in a hurry, and quickly.”
As for the goal: “I guess I beat him with a pretty good shot there. It definitely felt good, as you could tell from my reaction.”
Boyle, who finished with six shots and a -1 rating in 22 minutes of ice time, expressed concern before the game that he might be tentative after the frightening situation in St. Louis.
“It wasn’t necessarily that. I just felt half a second behind in my skating at times,” he said. “I wasn’t skating as well as I liked, and some of my decision making was about half a second slow.”
“It was a start. I definitely expect to be back to my normal self hopefully sooner than later.”
Head coach Todd McLellan’s report card seemed to echo his 37-year-old defenseman.
“Rusty initially. First shift (leading to Vermette goal), coming off of that type of an event, it takes a little while to get back on the bike and start pedaling again. He had to feel his way in, and I’m sure he’s not 100 percent – as far as, not the head or anything, but the body. The timing, the hands, the lungs, the legs.
"Everything that goes into playing has to improve over the next little bit. His practices will be important, and for him to keep the engine running will be important, as well.”