New York Hockey: Anssi Salmela

Rapid Reaction: Devils 3, Islanders 2 (OT)

March, 12, 2011
Recap | Box score | Photos

WHAT IT MEANS: The New Jersey Devils earned yet another heart-stopping overtime victory. What else is new? On Friday night, it was Travis Zajac with the winner. On Saturday night, it was Anssi Salmela. Yes, Anssi Salmela. The young defenseman roofed a high shot past Islanders goaltender Al Montoya with just 1:51 remaining in overtime, giving the Devils a 3-2 win at the Prudential Center. It was Salmela's first goal of the season.

New Jersey (32-32-4) has now won two and a row and moved to .500 for the first time since the first game of the season (0-0-1). The Devils' last nine games have decided by one goal; they're 7-2-0 in those games. New Jersey now has 68 points and 14 games remaining to make up ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race; the Devils are currently six points off the pace in the playoff race.

Meanwhile, the Islanders lost for just the third time in their last 11 games (8-3-0).

DUELING NETMINDERS: Both Martin Brodeur and Montoya were strong between the pipes. Neither deserved to lose; despite making 32 saves, Montoya did. Brodeur, 6-1-0 in his last seven starts, earned the victory in goal. He made just 13 stops.

TURNING POINT: When Brodeur stoned Michael Grabner on a breakaway with less than 15 minutes remaining in the third period following Mark Fayne's dubbed pass from the point. Shortly after, David Clarkson followed with a goal at 5:42 that tied the score at 2-2. Clarkson's first shot in the high slot was stopped by Montoya, but he stayed with it and jammed home the rebound out in front for his 10th goal of the season.

SECOND-PERIOD WOES: Blake Comeau and John Tavares scored to give the Islanders the lead in the second period. Comeau's 20th of the season tied the score just 1:13 in as he slid a backhander by Brodeur after Jack Hillen blocked Ilya Kovalchuk's point shot to setup a 2-on-1 opportunity. Then, after the Islanders won faceoff in the Devils' end, Andrew MacDonald's shot from the left point was deflected by Tavares shortside to make it 2-1 at 6:44. It was Tavares' 25th goal of the season. The middle frame has continued to haunt the Devils. Although they’ve been a lot better in the second half, New Jersey has still been outscored 71-45 in the second.

HAVE A DAY KID: Saturday night will be a game 20-year-old pivot Jacob Josefson will never forget, because you don’t forget the night of your first NHL goal. Josefson got his just 1:57 into the game. After beating Bruno Gervais for a puck behind the net, Josefson banked a shot off Montoya's left skate to put the Devils up 1-0. "It's a great feeling," Josefson said during the first intermission. "Scoring my first NHL goal is a dream. It was a lucky bounce, but it doesn't matter."

It was New Jersey's first goal scored in the first period since Feb. 19, snapping an eight-game drought. That score stood up at the end of the first 20 minutes, meaning the Devils extended their modern NHL record to 16 games without allowing a goal in the opening frame. We're guessing interim coach Jacques Lemaire isn't going to refer to the first period as "awful."

UP NEXT: The Devils skate against the Atlanta Thrashers at home on Tuesday night. And they'll be rooting for the Islanders to beat the New York Rangers -- one of the teams New Jersey is chasing in the standings -- at Madison Square Garden that evening.

You can follow Mike Mazzeo on Twitter: @MazzESPN

Devils to start with skeleton crew

October, 7, 2010
The New Jersey Devils will start the season with just 20 players on their NHL roster, but met the 3 p.m. Wednesday deadline to get underneath the salary cap without giving up any of their players to other teams.

Both D Bryce Salvador and D Anssi Salmela will start the season on injured lists, with Salvador designated for long-term injured reserve and Salmela earmarked as an injured, non-roster player. The cap relief the Devils get from those moves barely scrapes them below the $59.4 million salary cap ceiling for the 2010-11 season.

With the assignment of D Matt Taormina to Albany of the AHL and the recall of C Adam Henrique, the Devils have their roster. The risks of playing with a skeleton crew are many, but foremost the Devils run the risk of an active player injuring himself and needing replacement. Rather than dressing a healthy scratch, New Jersey would have to recall a player from Albany, the team’s AHL affiliate.

Should Salvador get healthy again, the team would first have to clear the necessary cap room before activating him.

For his part, GM Lou Lamoriello noted the proximity of Albany should the Devils need to recall a player and alluded to the fact that the opening day roster may be altered as the season moves on.

"This is just our opening day roster," Lamoriello said. "We will start with 20 people. Rosters can change from day to day and Albany is only an hour and three quarters away so when time is on your side, you use it."

With his well-earned reputation, Lamoriello has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt, but I really question how this can work beyond Oct. 27, when the team begins a five-game western swing against the Sharks, Ducks, Kings, Canucks and Blackhawks. Albany may be an hour and 45 minutes from Newark, but Anaheim and Vancouver are a different story.

And given that the Ducks are one of the most physical teams in the NHL, what happens if a player gets dinged in the Oct. 29 game and then falters in the morning skate the next day? Heck, what about swine flu? Or a common cold? The team would either have to fly out a player from Albany for a game in L.A. Oct. 30 or play shorthanded.

Could more injuries help the salary cap situation? Maybe. But any player with a worthwhile cap hit that lands on the IR would also drain the team’s talent pool. That’s hardly ideal.

I suspect the roster will continue to be a work in progress as the season begins and Lamoriello will continue to try and free cap space by moving a player. It feels to me that logistics just become too complicated otherwise and provide a huge handicap over the course of 82-games. Nevertheless, here’s how the roster shapes up right now:

Forwards: Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Rolston, Dainius Zubrus, David Clarkson, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Rod Pelley, Adam Henrique.
Defensemen: Henrik Tallinder, Andy Greene, Colin White, Anton Volchenkov, Alex Urbom, Mark Fraser.
Goaltenders: Martin Brodeur, Johan Hedberg.

Morning Links
  • Tom Gulitti pens an epic post on the Devils’ approach to the Ilya Kovalchuk signing in his Fire and Ice blog. You may need a Power Bar to finish it, but it’s an interesting read, particularly as it disputes the notion that owner Jeff Vanderbeek was driving the movement to sign Kovalchuk against Lamoriello’s judgement.
  • The Post writes that the Devils still lack room to sign Adam Mair.
  • The Post’s team preview emphasizes the Devils’ new-look offense.
  • In Lou We Trust provided four reasons why the Devils’ 20-man roster approach is foolish.
  • And that site also has a few questions about the Taormina/Henrique shuffling.
  • The Star-Ledger rates the Devils No. 2 in the Eastern Conference behind the Washington Capitals in its season preview.

The season closes in

September, 15, 2010
Now well within a month of the start of the NHL season and mere days before veterans report for training camp, the media is starting to roll out its pre-season power rankings. Blog conglomerate SB Nation released its rankings, placing the Devils third in the East behind Washington (No. 1) and Pittsburgh.

As for the Rangers and Islanders? Well, there’s always next year.

Morning Links

  • Speaking of next season, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is already looking ahead to the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
  • In the name of all things synergistic, here’s ESPN’s Gare Joyce’s first cut at the top 10 prospects from the 2011 (Insider) field from earlier this summer.
  • As a cap to the summer, ESPN’s E.J. Hradek takes a look at the best and worst offseason moves in the Atlantic Division. On that Kovalchuk signing you may have heard about? Not a fan. (Insider)
  • After losing 5-4 to Minnesota’s prospects Tuesday at Traverse City, the team’s site writes that winning isn’t everything at the tournament. Evgeny Grachev notched his third goal of the tourney, while 2010 third-rounder Andrew Yogan tallied as well. After the game, Rangers player development director Gordie Clark spoke highly of several of the prospects, particularly the defensive tandem of Ryan McDonagh and Dylan McIlrath. Clark labeled the duo the tournament’s “best pair by far.” The Baby Blueshirts wrap the tournament Wednesday against Dallas. You can follow the action here.
  • The Rangers and restricted free agent D Marc Staal continue to negotiate, according to the New York Post. Larry Brooks says the talks should conclude in a positive fashion before the opening of camp on Friday, with the discussed deal extending into Staal’s first few years of unrestricted free agency.
  • Blueshirts by the Numbers touches on No. 22, Mike Gartner.
  • Head Coach John Tortorella said newly-acquired netminder Martin Biron will hopefully start around 20 games this season. That would shed about 10 games from Lundqvist’s total last season. Tortorella also discussed the status of Chris Drury, who needs to prove he can still produce, according to the coach. The bench boss also conceded that Wade Redden’s contract affects how he looks at defenseman. Honestly, if the nails aren’t already hammered into Redden’s coffin, a new big deal for Staal should take care of that.
  • The Daily News caught up with Ruslan Fedotenko, who will fight for a job at training camp.
  • Ranger Rants examines the training camp battles on the right wing.
  • Lundqvist was among a slew of NHL stars in New York for the league’s media tour. Though I can’t seem to grab the link, on right now there’s a video interview of the Rangers’ goalie getting asked about his super-dreamy locks. This is appointment viewing, I assure you. If you’re waiting for an actual hockey question though, you can probably save the 30 seconds.

Commissioner Gary Bettman tells Tom Gulitti that there will not be an appeal on the league’s punishment of the New Jersey Devils.
“The arbitrator found that there was a circumvention in this particular case and I’ve been very clear to the board that in the event that there’s a finding of circumvention it has to be punished,” Bettman said. “It’s that simple.”

I would argue that there has been nothing simple about the Kovalchuk signing/circumvention and that the league itself is to blame for previously allowing contracts of absurd length, padded with low-rent years to alleviate a salary-cap hit.