Both Tampa Bay and New York could be getting reinforcements for the Eastern Conference final soon. Lightning center Brian Boyle’s status is up in the air, while Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello skated in full equipment for the first time since suffering what is supsected to have been a concussion in the first round.
Neither Boyle nor Zuccarello suited up for Game 1, but there’s potential for both to appear in this series at some point. For Boyle, it could even be as soon as Game 2, but there has been no confirmation from Lightning coach Jon Cooper that will be the case.
When asked about the status of his depth center, Cooper told reporters he doesn’t, “know how to answer that, honestly.” Boyle, who is sidelined with an undisclosed injury, practised on Friday ahead of Game 1, but wasn’t on the ice when Tampa Bay took the ice to prepare for the second game of the Eastern Conference final.
It’s near impossible to pinpoint what exactly is ailing Boyle. Throughout the playoffs, his minutes have been steady and, in the last game of the second-round series against Montreal, Boyle logged more than 14 minutes of ice time, which is roughly what he has gotten throughout the post-season. The only real concern might be that in Game 5 of the second-round tilt with the Canadiens, Boyle skated a mere 11 minutes, well shy of his playoff average of 15:37.
In 13 playoff games, Boyle has notched a goal and two points and has been underrated in his role as a defensive, shutdown player for the Lightning.
As for Zuccarello, he took part in the Rangers’ game day skate Monday and donned full equipment ahead of Game 2. The 27-year-old winger hasn’t suited up since Game 5 of the Rangers’ first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins due to what is suspected to be a concussion.
While there hasn’t been confirmation from the Rangers about when or how Zuccarello was injured, it’s believed to have occurred when he took a slapshot from teammate Ryan McDonagh to the head during New York’s 2-1 Game 5 victory. After being hit with the shot, Zuccarello left the ice and did not return. He hasn’t played since.
In five first-round games, Zuccarello notched two assists. In the regular season, he potted 15 goals and 49 points in 78 games. His return to the lineup would give the Rangers a big offensive boost and provide them with some good, secondary scoring. Unfortunately, however, the Rangers say his status remains unchanged and he’ll still be out indefinitely.