Thanks to Don Fulton, who tracked down Brian Boyle this morning and got an update on the knee injury Boyle suffered while playing for Manchester this week. Boyle also talked about his progress as a player and his future. Here’s the interview…
Injuries to the knee for an athlete are quite scary, and when you are a prospect looking to fulfill NHL aspirations like the Kings’ Brian Boyle, it is almost as if your life is flashing before your eyes when the knee gives-out.
Boyle suffered a Grade 2 sprain of his Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) on his right knee in a game for Manchester on April 5th. The MCL is one of four ligaments that stabilize the knee joint. It spans the distance from the end of the thigh bone (femur) to the top of the shin bone (tibia). This is the same injury (Grade 2 sprain) that kept Detroit’s Johan Franzen out of the Wings’ lineup for three weeks back in October.
Thankfully, the prognosis for Boyle’s recovery is a positive one, and today he spent a few minutes discussing the injury, his recovery and his future with the Kings.
Q&A with Brian Boyle.
Question: Can you walk me through the play where you suffered the injury?
Boyle: It was kind of a weird play. I was just checking a guy and he passed the puck along the wall and it was a little bit late for me to hit him so I just sort of turned up ice with him and started back towards the play. We were in our offensive zone and just back-checking to get back where the puck was, and this kid just fell kind of awkwardly right into the side of my leg and my right knee kind of buckled inward. My skate planted in the ice and it aggravated my MCL, the ligament got stretched out. It was diagnosed as a Grade 2 sprain.
Question: Had you ever hurt that knee before?
Boyle: No, never.
Question: What happened next?
Boyle: Right away it just felt kind of weak so I headed back to the bench and got off the ice. I could put weight on it, and the trainer wanted to get a look at it and so did the doc. They shut me down for that game and then really didn’t tell me much. I thought maybe they were just being cautious because we were winning. I was being as optimistic as I could. I got an MRI – I really couldn’t walk the next day – but I got the MRI and they said I would be our four to six with a Grade 2 MCL sprain and that was kind of that.
Question: How did you deal with the news?
Boyle: It was tough. I kind of felt like I was playing my best hockey at that time, as was the team, and I just wanted to be a part of that. It was pretty exciting and we were getting pretty jacked-up for a playoff run. I had never really missed any time with an injury. I don’t think I had ever missed a full hockey game because of an injury, so it was something new for me and it was hard to just sit back and only do the rehab.
Question: Were there mornings when you’d wake up feeling good and want to prove them wrong and get out there and play?
Boyle: I felt at about two weeks I was ahead of schedule, but I think I was just telling myself that and I was trying to do more each day than I was supposed to. It didn’t cause any problems. It was healing pretty good and pretty quickly, but unfortunately we went out in four games. I was kind of more optimistic than anyone.
Question: How is the rehab and therapy going?
Boyle: Good. I usually just kind of warm up on a stationary bike and loosen up the knee and then go through a couple of hours of exercises. I do a lot of one-legged squats and just focus on that knee and do a lot of stabilizing with a lot of weight on that bad, right leg. It has come a long way so far, I’ve been able to do a lot of things like a slide board and a lot of things laterally. They fitted me with a knee brace that I’m probably going to wear until August. Each day I make more progress. If every two days I make a progression after doing something new there is a two day window where if my knee flares up or gets too sore or swollen I probably shouldn’t be doing those things. So far that hasn’t happened.
Question: Have they even talked about a timetable for you skating?
Boyle: Since the season is over there really isn’t any rush. It will probably be six to eight weeks, but there is no reason to rush it since the season is so far away and we don’t want to take any chances.
Question: In happier news, you have to be happy with your output in both the American League and with the Kings this year?
Boyle: Looking back, I can’t believe how much we went through as a team. When the end of the season came around it seemed like things happened so fast and it didn’t seem like it was that long ago that I was trying to figure out how to play defense. I was pretty happy with the year. I was satisfied that I was able to play a role on the team that I always wanted to play and that’s trying to contribute both offensively and defensively and try and do a little of everything. I was happy that I was able to score some goals, and by the end of the year the team really picked up. It was good to be a part of that. Obviously it was good in February to get called up and get a few goals in the NHL. It was really something that was a special time for me, and then coming back and being a part of a playoff run in Manchester was a lot of fun. Numbers-wise I know people were happy and appreciated how I did, and I just tried to bring it every night as much as I could and as best as I could, to play as consistent as I could. I felt like I contributed to the team winning and that is a good feeling.
Question: We talked before about that transition from offense to defense and back again. Looking back, did you ever feel completely at home back there?
Boyle: I think the last couple of games I played on defense I was starting to get a little more comfortable, but I don’t think I was ever really comfortable like I would be playing forward. I never really expected it to be, and figured it would take a year or two for it to be as effective or as comfortable as I would be as a forward, just to be able to go out there and not worry that I need to figure this game out. I knew it was going to take some time and I was up to the challenge. When they moved me back to forward I was a little disappointed because I was just starting to get the hang of it. I was wondering if maybe I did something wrong. Why were we quitting on this now after putting in all this time? But in the end I think it was the right move. I really learned an appreciation for what defensemen go through and about the proper support from a forward. I learned these little things that, especially as a center, I can be there to help out a defensemen and maybe get my stick on the puck more as a forward. I was fortunate to go through that, and even with all of the growing pains it made me a better player.
Question: I realize it was a brief stay, but your time with the Kings was successful so I am wondering if you feel like you now belong in the NHL.
Boyle: I got a quick start out the gate production-wise, and guys go through that. I’m really happy that I got the chance to play the games I got to play. Eight games, and I scored a few goals and that was awesome. It was great to just kind of be able to do that and especially scoring at Staples Center, it was sweet to be able to do that. The crowd was going nuts when I scored against Calgary, it was something really special, and adrenaline that I had never experienced before. It was only eight games and only four goals, a quick start with some success, but it is a slippery slope. You can’t really get satisfied with that, because in the long run the reality is that I want to be a big part of the Kings organization and I got a taste of it, but I know there is a long way to go and there is a lot of work left to be done.
Question: Was the NHL game a lot faster than the American League for you?
Boyle: When you get the call to go up there is just so much adrenaline and you are so jacked-up that I was so focused because you don’t want to screw up. I was doing everything I could to keep up and just stay focused, but eventually I felt pretty comfortable and not too out of place. There are plays at the NHL level that just happen in the blink of an eye, and the game just seems more organized. The skills are just at a higher end. If you know your job and you are in the right spot you can do all right. If you play patiently and in your own element, get in good position things work out, and they did for me.
Question: Is your mindset right now already preparing to make the team in training camp?
Boyle: Oh yeah. My full summer workout is just going to be about getting bigger, stronger, faster, because I want to earn a spot and stay there. Last summer was more about doing as well as I could and not worry about it, but now I feel like I can go in there and earn a spot. There is a spot there for me. I have to feel that way.
Question: You have to feel good about going from being a prospect and then a “project,” to now being counted on as a major part of the puzzle for the Kings.
Boyle: It does feel good. It’s been a while already because I was drafted in 2003 and you look at that draft class and it was pretty good, so that is motivation enough for me. I want to make it and I want to stick in the NHL. It has taken me a few extra years, but now I have to show people, prove that I can stay in the NHL.