SAN JOSE -- At some point Friday afternoon, St. Louis Blues forward Maxim Lapierre might look over at Dan Boyle and think about saying he's sorry for the illegal hit that sent the Sharks defenseman to the hospital.
Don't bother. Boyle isn't ready for any handshake moment.
"Not really," he said. "Not right now."
This rare matinee is the first game between the teams in the 45 days since Lapierre drove Boyle face first into the ridge where the boards meet the glass, knocking him unconscious. Taken off the ice on a stretcher, Boyle spent the night in a St. Louis hospital.
Lapierre, an agitator who did not deny making threats earlier in the Oct. 15 game, earned a five-game suspension. Boyle missed seven games with a concussion and is still working his way back to top form.
Boyle is usually willing to dissect his game in greater detail than most players. But this week, he preferred to keep any self-analysis -- whether looking at his game or his current state of mind -- to himself.
"I'm very open as you know, and I talk about how I feel, but I think this is one of those times where I have to bottle it up a little bit," Boyle said. "I don't want to draw any more attention to it."
Boyle said he isn't having headaches, but he has acknowledged something not being quite right and had voiced concerns about playing more tentatively upon his return. In 11 games since returning Nov. 2, Boyle has four goals and three assists and is averaging about 22 minutes of ice time.
Coach Todd McLellan said Boyle is still not his usual presence on the ice but is making progress.
"I think the elevator is just about at the top floor, if I were going to use an analogy," McLellan said this week. "And if it isn't, it has to get there. He's played a lot of hockey now, and it's time to get to that elite level again. He's getting there, and I think he can close the gap a little bit."
A week ago, the coach talked about a shortage of Boyle's usual confidence as the 37-year-old defenseman was trying to get his game back.
"He looks more and more like himself, but a lot of it, it's just the confidence to go do it again," McLellan said. "Ever since I've been around him, he's a very confident individual that competes hard. When that confidence erodes a little bit, it takes a bit of his game with him."
The day after the hit, Lapierre told reporters in St. Louis how bad he felt about the consequences of his hit and how he tried calling Boyle to apologize. Boyle didn't answer, Lapierre said, and he understood why.
Wednesday, Lapierre told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he and Boyle later exchanged texts, explaining what each was thinking on the play.
"I can't say he's happy with it, but this is what it is," Lapierre said, adding that he expects to "face the music" from Sharks fans Friday.
"At the end of the day, I'm just happy that he's playing, and I think he's doing good," Lapierre said. "That's all that matters."
Boyle's position on the play that knocked him out has not softened.
"I understand there are times in a game with some of these open-ice hits that are just part of hockey," Boyle said this week. "But when you hit somebody from behind like that, it's a lack of respect."
In the lead-up to games such as this one, there can be talk of payback -- whether it's someone dropping the gloves with Lapierre or maybe a Shark leveling one of the Blues' skill players. And San Jose did bring up tough guy Matt Pelech from Worcester on Tuesday.
But McLellan indicated that wasn't part of the game plan.
"We're going to play the St. Louis Blues, who are perhaps the best team in the league right now, and the goal is to get the two points," the Sharks coach said. "They're going to go out and compete on the ice, and that's how it is. The media will make a big issue out of it. We're going to play for two points."
St. Louis (18-3-3) at Sharks (16-3-5), 1 p.m. CSNCA
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