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.

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.