Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Trevor Gillies

Devils suit up just 15 skaters against Pittsburgh this afternoon


You had to know that when it was known that the Devils wouldn’t be able to afford any injuries early in the season thanks to their salary cap constraints that the hockey gods would find a way to make things interesting. It turns out that day is today as the Devils will be skating just 15 players in their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins this afternoon. Tom Gulitti shares the minimal personnel details in New Jersey.

Defenseman Anton Volchenkov (broken nose) and left wing Brian Rolston (lower body) will be miss the game because of injuries they sustained in Saturday’s 7-2 loss in Washington, general manager Lou Lamoriello said.

Left wing Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond will sit out to serve his automatic one-game suspension for instigating a fight in the final five minutes of Saturday’s game.

The Devils do not have the salary cap space to add any players today.

“We will be playing with the healthy people we have here,” Lamoriello said. “Volchenkov will not play. It’s obvious the puck hit his face shield and broke his nose and cut his face. He’ll be out today. Rolston has got a lower-body injury. He will be out today. We won’t know to what degree that is until after he meets with the doctors today. We’ll give you an update later on. Leblond, who was suspended, was put on waivers today.”

Martin Brodeur is about the only guaranteed guy in the lineup these days in New Jersey but goalie is about the only position not suffering from injury. Leblond’s suspension and subsequent visit to the waiver wire indicates that his selfish and foolish actions against Washington aren’t appreciated by the very team-oriented Devils. Adam Mair has continued to work out with the Devils and if Leblond ends up back in the AHL, Mair could be in line for a minimal contract.

Of course, that’s just skirting the issue of the major cap issues facing the Devils. Sure, Ilya Kovalchuk is going to take the brunt of the blame for putting the Devils in a bad spot here, but the truth is Devils GM Lou Lamoriello is the designer of this financial disaster thanks to terrible contracts given to Brian Rolston and Dainius Zubrus.

The Devils knew full well what they might have to deal with going into this season and with one freak injury to Anton Volchenkov, a nagging issue for Brian Rolston, and a boneheaded play by Pierre-Luc Letorneau-Leblond, now the Devils are forced to go with just 15 skaters to try and beat the Pittsburgh Penguins. Going with just nine forwards, six defenseman, and two goalies. Depending on how this situation plays out, it could be the kind of thing that forces Lamoriello’s hand into making a move to free up cap space for the Devils to at least add players to the roster so they can have backups.

Star struck: Sens chase Niemi after three goals on nine shots (Update: And now he’s back)

Milan Michalek, Antti Niemi
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Bet Antti Niemi misses playing Buffalo.

Niemi, who stopped 46 of 47 shots in back-to-back wins over the Sabres last week, was hooked during Tuesday’s game against the Senators after allowing three goals on nine shots.

In Niemi’s defense, tonight’s goals weren’t exactly his fault.

John Klingberg coughed up the puck badly on Bobby Ryan‘s opening tally…

And on Ottawa’s second goal, Jyrki Jokipakka lost a board battle moments before Milan Michalek snapped one home:

The Sens’ third marker also came on a turnover.

Update: Well, this is quite the night for Dallas netminders. Kari Lehtonen replaced Niemi, allowed a goal, then got hurt in this collision with Klingberg, which forced him from the game and Niemi back into action.

Foley aware of Seattle reports, but says Vegas is ‘proceeding as if we will play in 2017’

Gary Bettman, Bill Foley
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Bill Foley, the man behind Las Vegas’ prospective NHL expansion team, says he knows about reports claiming the league is keeping an eye on a proposed Seattle arena.

He also says he isn’t going to worry about things out of his control.

“I’m aware of what’s going on (in Seattle) but in my communication with the league, our situation isn’t dependent on third parties,” Foley said Tuesday, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We believe we’re in good shape and we’re proceeding as if we will play in 2017.”

Over the weekend, a Seattle Times piece suggested the NHL had yet to award Vegas or Quebec City an expansion franchise because the league is “avoiding any expansion decision until after an upcoming Seattle City Council vote likely to decide the fate of Chris Han­sen’s proposed Sodo District arena.”

The piece also suggested Seattle could be granted an expansion club for the 2018-19 campaign.


That vote, on granting Hansen part of Occidental Avenue South for his arena, is expected by January. No one knows how it will go, only that the lead-up should be politically charged and fiercely contested.

But passing it — future legal appeals notwithstanding — paves the way for Hansen to obtain his Master Use Permit and have his arena “shovel ready” should he choose to build.

And that means, once a vote passes, it’s entirely possible the NHL could conditionally award Seattle an expansion team.

To his credit, Foley remains solely focused on his Vegas bid — not what potential rival bids could bring to the table. And while he confirmed he has yet to be invited to the Dec. 7 NHL Board of Governor’s meeting in Pebble Beach, he re-iterated his only objective is to strengthen Sin City’s case for a hockey team.

“I’m focused on trying to find a place to build our practice facility,” he said. “I’m focused on the new arena and our fans who’ve put down deposits on season tickets.”

Report: Sabres’ Lehner (ankle) suffered minor setback in recovery

Robin Lehner
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Sabres fans hoping Robin Lehner would return early from his high ankle sprain received some tough news on Tuesday — per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, Lehner suffered a “little setback” in his recovery.

Lehner was hurt in Buffalo’s opening game of the year and, originally, slated to miss 6-10 weeks. Six weeks have now passed, but optimism he’d be able to return in the earlier part of the timeframe has been dashed — LeBrun says Lehner’s projected return is now for mid-to-late December.

(So, closer to the 10-week estimate.)

While it’s not great news for the Sabres, it’s a positive development for the club’s other Swedish netminder, Linus Ullmark.

Recalled from AHL Rochester shortly after Lehner got hurt, Ullmark is on a really nice run in November — just check his last five games played:


The last Lehner update from the Sabres came in early November, when head coach Dan Bylsma told the News his goalie was “doing really well,” but “not close yet to getting back on the ice.”

Welcome Ryan Johansen to the trade rumor mill

Ryan Johansen

Well, this kind of seemed inevitable — there are now trade rumblings involving Columbus center Ryan Johansen.

This evening, TSN’s Darren Dreger revealed that teams have been calling Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen about the talented pivot, adding that one team classified Johansen as being “softly” in play.

More (transcribed from video):

“That doesn’t mean [Kekalainen] is calling teams, saying ‘what are you going to give me?’ However, when teams call, he’s not dismissing the interest. He is saying ‘well, what’s your offer?’

“What that tells you is there’s at least some interest in considering the trade of Ryan Johansen and, as we saw on the weekend, his minutes dropped, he was demoted to the fourth line — so if the right deal comes along, they’ll consider it.”

The incident Dreger referred to occurred during Sunday’s 5-3 loss to San Jose, in which head coach John Tortorealla limited Johansen to just 13:52 TOI — his lowest total of the season.

It’s the latest incident from what’s already been a tumultuous year; not long after getting hired, Tortorella told the reigning All-Star MVP he was out of shape.

Johnansen was then away from the team for a pair of games dealing with an undisclosed illness. During that absence, the Dispatch reported Johansen had been hospitalized this summer because of an accelerated heart rate.

All this, of course, came one year after an ugly contract dispute at the start of last season, during which the Jackets and Johansen’s representation engaged in a public spat before agreeing to a three-year, $12M deal.