Devils suit up just 15 skaters against Pittsburgh this afternoon

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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.

Willie Desjardins to coach Team Canada at Olympics

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The past two Winter Olympics, Team Canada has been coached to gold by Mike Babcock, currently the NHL’s highest-paid bench boss.

But the 2018 Olympics in South Korea will be a very different animal. The NHL is not sending its players this time. When the Games are on, Babcock will be busy with his Toronto Maple Leafs.

So, today, Hockey Canada announced that Willie Desjardins, recently fired by the Vancouver Canucks, will be the head coach of the two-time defending gold medalists. Desjardins will be assisted by former Team Canada head coach Dave King, as well as Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft.

Sean Burke, who rose to prominence as a goalie in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics — which didn’t feature NHLers, either — will be Canada’s general manager. Burke will be aided by Martin Brodeur.

“This is an exciting time for Hockey Canada and for our National Men’s Team program, and it will be an exciting season for Canadian hockey fans,” said Tom Renney, Hockey Canada’s CEO. “The goal is always to field the best possible team in all upcoming competitions, including this February when we hit the world’s biggest sporting stage in Pyeonchang. The faces on our Team Canada rosters may be different than in previous years, but the expectations will be the same; with the addition of Sean, Martin, Willie, Dave, Scott, and Craig, we have assembled some of the best hockey minds out there to help us meet those expectations of on-ice success.”

Today’s announcement is yet more evidence, if you still required it, that the NHL isn’t bluffing about not sending its players to South Korea.

In an email to The Hockey News, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly refuted a report out of Russia that suggested the league had a backup schedule with an Olympic break in it.

“There is not an alternative schedule,” Daly wrote. “Having NHL Players participate in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games is not an available option. All of the international federations are planning appropriately for constructing teams that will not include NHL players. I anticipate there will be federation announcements in the coming days that should eliminate any and all continuing doubt or skepticism about the issue.”

The NHL released the 2017-18 schedule a month ago.

Related: Tampa awarded the 2018 All-Star Game, further dampening Olympic hopes

Preds expect answer from Fisher next week

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We should find out next week if Mike Fisher is going to retire or keep playing for the Predators.

Fisher, Nashville’s 37-year-old captain, is an unrestricted free agent. He confirmed last month that he was considering retirement. But first, he needed some time to think.

Yesterday, Preds GM David Poile said he expected an answer soon.

“I’m hoping to talk to him later this week to see where he’s at,” Poile said, per The Tennessean. “I’d say by next week, we should have an update.”

Fisher had 18 goals and 24 assists in 72 games last season, but then had just four assists in 20 playoff games as the Preds reached their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

If Fisher re-signs, he’ll likely be in the bottom six next season, with Ryan Johansen and newly signed Nick Bonino expected to center the top two lines. Fisher could even be the fourth-line center or a winger, allowing the likes of Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons, and Frederick Gaudreau to take on bigger roles.

But for Fisher, hockey isn’t everything, and after more than 1,000 games in the NHL, he may simply opt to hang up the skates.

“Everyone wants to win in this game, no one probably more than me,” Fisher said. “But there’s other things. At the end of the day, this is a game. It’s an important part of my life, but it’s not everything.”

Related: Predators take Stanley Cup loss with grace and optimism

Habs sign Mark Streit — is he Markov’s replacement?

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The Montreal Canadiens have signed 39-year-old defenseman Mark Streit to a one-year contract worth a reported $700,000.

This will actually be Streit’s second stint with the Habs. He started his NHL career in Montreal, all the way back in 2005.

Streit split last season between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the playoffs, he only appeared in three games for the Penguins, all of them in the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa when Justin Schultz was hurt.

What the Streit signing means for Andrei Markov remains to be seen. Streit, like Markov, can run a power play, so it’s tempting to conclude that Streit is Markov’s replacement.

That being said, almost all of Streit’s contract could be buried in the AHL if necessary, so that conclusion may be premature. This could even be a move by GM Marc Bergevin to gain leverage and convince Markov to sign.

Markov, 38, remains an unrestricted free agent. The Canadiens want him back, but only at a certain price.

Devils give Mirco Mueller two-year extension

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The New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Mirco Mueller to a two-year contract extension with a cap hit of $850,000.

Mueller, a first-round draft pick of the Sharks in 2013, has only played 54 NHL games, scoring two goals with four assists. In June, after spending most of 2016-17 in the AHL, San Jose traded the 22-year-old to the Devils.

In New Jersey, Mueller should get a good chance to crack a rebuilding roster.

“Mirco is adding another piece to what we’re trying to build here,” Devils coach John Hynes said, per NJ.com. “He’s a young player, he can play with pace. He’s a very good skater. He’s got size, which is something we need on the back end. He makes a good first pass. He allows you to get out of your own zone because he can break out, he can end plays defensively, get possession, make the pass to be able to transition yourself out of defensive situations.”

The Devils have also re-signed goalie Scott Wedgewood and forward Joseph Blandisi.