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Boyle not isolated yet a bit alone
The defenseman can't participate in full drills while he's injured.
By Damian Cristodero
Published October 10, 2007
TAMPA - There were times Tuesday when Dan Boyle looked like the loneliest person on the ice.
While teammates did five-on-five drills at one end of the rink, the Lightning defenseman skated by himself, side board to side board, at the other.
When practice at the St. Pete Times Forum filled the ice, Boyle sat alone on the bench, watching and waiting for the noncontact passing and skating drills in which he could participate.
"It's not a fun place to be," Boyle said. "You want to be part of the team. You want to be out there with the guys, going through everything they're going through."
Instead, one of the league's top puck-moving and scoring blue-liners is rehabbing three surgically repaired tendons in his left wrist and fighting the anxiety of knowing he might not be back in the lineup for another two to four weeks.
The team's 2-0 start heading into tonight's game with the Panthers takes some of the edge off, Boyle said. Still, he added, "It's tough not to be part of it."
Boyle, 31, had surgery Sept.23, a day after a skate fell from atop his locker, slashed his wrist and cut through the tendons that connect to two muscles that control the thumb.
Trainer Tommy Mulligan said 50 percent of thumb movement has returned. But the plastic cast Boyle wears during practice prevents him from gripping his stick. So he holds it with his top hand as he would the top of an oar; in his palm.
Rehab consists of simply manipulating Boyle's thumb.
"Mobilizing the tendons, getting him to start using the muscles," Mulligan said. "The biggest thing we're trying to prevent is for the tendon to scar down and restrict his range of motion long term."
Mulligan said Boyle will be fitted in about a week with a more flexible cast so he can better grip a stick.
"He is exactly," Mulligan said, "where we expect him to be."
The Lightning defense is doing its best to cover the 27:03 of ice time Boyle averaged last season.
Paul Ranger is averaging 26:32, up more than six minutes. Shane O'Brien is up more than 10 at 25:05. Filip Kuba is up more than four at 24:48. Kuba is getting time on the first power-play unit. Ranger is expected to get more power-play time as well.
Rather than trying to duplicate Boyle's end-to-end rushes, O'Brien said coach John Tortorella has stressed "keeping it simple" and making strong first passes out of the defensive zone.
"We're definitely learning," Ranger said. "It's giving us a little bit of experience, so if this ever happens again, and somebody is out for a long period of time, we'll have the experience and know we can do it."
Still, O'Brien said, "I don't know how Boyle does it, playing 30 minutes and carrying the puck as much as he does."
Boyle, who last season had 20 goals and 63 points, can't wait for the chance.
He declined to talk about when he might return because Tortorella banned players from discussing injuries. But Boyle started a new conversation when he pulled off the bandage on his wrist and showed off a purple, 2-inch scar that, amazingly, looks like a lightning bolt.
"Maybe I'll get a tattoo when it's all said and done," he said.
For now, though, "The most important thing is to stay in shape; to participate in the drills I can, and then, when I can, find a piece of ice out there."
Where he will work hard, but alone.
KARLSSON OUT: Andreas Karlsson (abdominal strain) likely will not play tonight.
The left wing, injured Oct.1, practiced Monday, sat out Tuesday and got less than a vote of confidence from Tortorella.
"He's in the tub," Tortorella said. "Where he goes from there, I don't know."