Opportunity knocks for Boyce

Maple Leafs forward Darryl Boyce looks up during the team's fan appreciation night at the Air...

Maple Leafs forward Darryl Boyce looks up during the team's fan appreciation night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., Dec. 20, 2011. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:15 PM ET

TORONTO - Darryl Boyce didn’t have to take a cab to the Air Canada Centre after all, no matter what the commercials say.

That Boyce, who was recalled by the Maple Leafs from the Toronto Marlies on Tuesday, had to arise early in the morning in Chicago to catch a flight to Toronto was just fine.

“I didn’t get much sleep (on Monday night),” said Boyce, who was told after the Leafs lost that evening against the Los Angeles Kings that he was going back to the National Hockey League.

“I put a body of work up here last year, and if you look at my stats, they were actually really good for a guy who plays on the third or fourth line, so to improve on that is going to be something in itself. That’s a goal of mine, to improve and get comfortable really quick and play my type of game.”

The original thought was Boyce was needed to replace Colby Armstrong, who has been put on injured reserve with a concussion and will be out of the lineup for an undetermined time. But the Leafs revealed during Leafs Nation Fan Night at the ACC that Philippe Dupuis suffered an upper-body injury against the Kings and also has been placed on injured reserve.

Boyce might not have the same kind of impact that Armstrong would have had over the long haul, but he should be a noticeable upgrade on Dupuis, who has been part of the worst penalty kill in the NHL and was one of only two players in the league — Brad Staubitz of the Minnesota Wild was the other before Tuesday’s games — to play in at least 30 games so far this season and fail to record a point.

Boyce helped the Marlies become one of the top penalty-killing teams in the American Hockey League. Determination on his part is a strong suit, as he did not get sent back to the Marlies last season after the Leafs recalled him late in December.

In 46 games with the Leafs, Boyce had five goals and eight assists and was plus-8. In each of the five games he scored, the Leafs won.

But Dupuis was signed during the summer and made the club ahead of Boyce coming out of training camp. More than a few Leafs fans have wondered aloud on Twitter how it is that Dupuis has kept his job over Boyce.

Where Boyce has grit, Dupuis does not. With seven losses in their past nine games, the Leafs’ problems won’t be solved by Boyce, but it’s doubtful that he will make anything worse.

How can Boyce help the Leafs’ penalty kill, if he gets that opportunity from coach Ron Wilson?

“My speed is an asset,” Boyce said. “I’m going to try to use my speed to force guys into making decisions they don’t want to make.”

Boyce, who will get a raise to $700,000 US with the Leafs from $105,000 with the Marlies, had a minor back problem in the minors but his physical health is fine. Mentally, the 27-year-old said it was a challenge when he was cut by the Leafs in training camp.

“It might not have been the biggest story of the camp, but personally it was a devastating blow,” said Boyce, who had spent the summer working out with Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf in Prince Edward Island. “I had to make sure I was okay between the ears and had a good mindset to make sure a lot of my good habits over the summer did not go waste in the first couple of months with the Marlies.

“Last year I took it game by game (with the Leafs) and I’m going to do the same thing now. I’m ready for my chance.”


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