Cap relief coming: Devils Brian Rolston goes on LTIR with sports hernia

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Much has been made of the New Jersey Devils inability to ice a complete roster of players thanks to their bind with the salary cap. While guys like Anton Volchenkov and Brian Rolston dealt with nagging injuries and recently demoted enforcer Pierre-Luc Letorneau-Leblond was serving a suspension the Devils had to ice just 15 skaters on Monday night and will send out just 16 skaters for tonight’s game against Buffalo.

Fear not Devils fans, relief is on the way in the form of a sports hernia. I know that sounds gross, but in this case it’s a bit too accurate as Devils forward Brian Rolston is headed to LTIR as he’ll be getting his sports hernia operated on tomorrow and will be out of action for 4-6 weeks. With Rolston on LTIR, the Devils will be allowed to go over the salary cap by $5.062 million (Rolston’s cap hit), thus temporarily solving their salary cap problems. Expect the express from the Devils AHL home in Albany to New Jersey to open up instantly as reinforcements and depth players can be plugged in now with the added salary space.

As for who we can expect to be on the way up to New Jersey, wingers Vladimir Zharkov and Mattias Tedenby are candidates as well as potentially the return of Pierre-Luc Letorneau-Leblond. There’s an outside possibility that prospect Jacob Josefson could get the call to New Jersey as well, but you’d have to think that getting him consistent minutes in Albany would be more of a priority this early in his career.

Those who aren’t Devils fans are going to declare shenanigans on Devils GM Lou Lamoriello for the financially fortunate turn of events with Rolston. Lamoriello’s history of getting things worked out to make the money work for the Devils is the thing of legend now. Of course, having him have a high-priced player end up with a sports hernia, an ailment that takes time to recover from, seems almost all too convenient to just about everyone. Unless Lou Lamoriello has mastered the art of voodoo, he’s in the clear here and this is just dumb luck for him. Then again, I wouldn’t doubt Lou’s ability to work the books either.

For Rolston, his second tour of duty in New Jersey has been nothing short of a complete disaster. After two sub-par seasons, he headed into this season looking to prove his worth and ensure his spot in the lineup in New Jersey and not end up being traded away for salary cap relief. Instead, he’s laid up with an injury and ends up giving the Devils what they needed to help them out without even meaning to. Let’s just go ahead and nominate him for team MVP already.

Most of all for Lamoriello now, this buys him time to get a plan together for when Rolston is able to return from LTIR to help the team get back under the cap. The Devils won’t get to claim an emergency when it’s time for Rolston to come back to get under the cap and if they’d like to keep the NHLPA off their back, they’d be wise to get their act together. Getting a plan worked out now will be a must-have for the Devils. While they can send the guys they’ll call up now back down again then, they won’t completely be in the clear.

For now, the Devils have no worries other than getting Anton Volchenkov back on the ice and getting the roster replacements into New Jersey as soon as possible. Lucky Lou strikes again.

Ducks cement Pacific lead as Getzlaf continues his mammoth March

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By the end of Sunday night, the Anaheim Ducks removed all doubt: they’re on top of the Pacific Division.

Now, it’s not the sort of substantial lead that the sliding San Jose Sharks squandered; Anaheim merely leads the Sharks and Edmonton Oilers by two standings points after beating the New York Rangers 6-3.

With everyone at 75 games played, it’s kind of nice to enjoy the clarity that comes with a clear lead (though the Sharks and Oilers will disagree):

Pacific top four (all teams with 75 games played)

1. Ducks – 93 points (38 ROW, 41 W)
2. Sharks – 91 poitns (40 ROW, 42 W)
3. Oilers – 91 points (37 ROW, 41 W)

Flames – 88 points (38 ROW, 42 W)

The Ducks are now on a four-game winning streak and managed an 8-1-1 mark in their last 10 contests.

With all due respect to Patrick Eaves‘ two goals, it’s Ryan Getzlaf who’s really playing outstanding hockey. He generated four assists in this one, giving him eight helpers in his past four games. He now has a whopping 20 points in March.

A lot going on – fight included – between Corey Perry, Brendan Smith (Video)

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If there’s one thing that’s undeniable from the clip going on, it’s that Corey Perry and Brendan Smith squeezed a lot of activity (carnage?) into a single shift.

Early on in Sunday’s New York Rangers – Anaheim Ducks game, both player delivered hits that were at least borderline dangerous. After that, they traded punches in a pretty solid fight (especially since they seemed a little tired because, again, this was a fairly elaborate sequence).

It’s way too messy a sequence to call neat, but there is something efficient about trading hits and then getting into a fight. That’s a mini-hockey feud in short order.

If you want a pretty moment to counteract all that, check out the great puck movement on this 3-on-1 goal for the Rangers:

Penguins lose to Flyers and lose another key player to injury

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PITTSBURGH — Even with a ridiculously long injured list that would be the foundation of a pretty good hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins still found a way to go 8-1-3 in their previous 12 games entering Sunday’s contest against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The injuries finally seemed to start catching up to them on Sunday in a 6-2 loss, extending their current losing streak to three games, matching their season long.

While the loss certainly impacts their pursuit of the top spot in the Metropolitan Division (they remain three points back of the Washington Capitals), and even their quest for home ice advantage in the first round, it is still not the worst thing to come out of Sunday’s game.

The worst thing for them would be the fact the Penguins lost yet another key player to an injury when forward Conor Sheary had to leave the game mid-way through the first period.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said after the game that Sheary is dealing with a lower body injury and that right now he is considered to be day-to-day. It was initially believed that Sheary was injured blocking a shot, but Sullivan insisted that was not the case and that it happened in the offensive zone at some point in the first period.

With Jake Guentzel still sidelined due a concussion he suffered in a recent game against the Buffalo Sabres, that means two-thirds of the team’s recently assembled top line (Sidney Crosby-Sheary-Guentzel) is now sidelined due to injury. Sheary’s injury is especially concerning given how good he has been on Crosby’s wing dating back to the 2016 playoffs. Entering play on Sunday Sheary was averaging nearly a point per game (50 points in 54 games) with almost all of that production coming at even-strength.

They had yet another scare in the third period on Sunday when defenseman Brian Dumoulin had to briefly leave the game and head to the locker room after he was elbowed in the side of the head by Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.

On Sunday, all of the injuries finally seemed to be too much with the Flyers pretty much dominating the game over the final two periods.

The Flyers received goals from six different players (Jordan Weal, Valtteri Filppula, Dale Weise, Jakob Voracek, Radko Gudas and Shayne Gostisbehere) in the win and outshot the Penguins by a 24-15 margin over the final 40 minutes.

“That wasn’t a good effort and at this point of the season we can’t afford to have those,” said Penguins forward Matt Cullen after the game. “I don’t think that was a typical effort for us. I don’t think we had a lot of life, to be honest.”

Even more than winning games the rest of the way the biggest concern for the Penguins has to be getting their list of injured players healthy and finding a way to avoid adding to it, something that has proven to be difficult in recent weeks.

At this point, whether they win the Metropolitan Division or not, they know their path through the Eastern Conference playoffs is very likely going to have to go through both Washington and Columbus, and they are going to need their full complement of players to do it.

One of the biggest factors in winning a Stanley Cup is having all of your key players in the lineup come playoff time.

A year ago the Penguins did.

Right now they are not even close to having that.

Video: Dumoulin shakes off elbow, Sheary out day-to-day for Penguins

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Barring a major comeback, the Pittsburgh Penguins look like they’re going to lose to the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Their injury losses might be just as big.

On the bright side, it seems like Brian Dumoulin was able to shake off an elbow from Wayne Simmonds. You can watch the hit, which didn’t draw a penalty, in the video above.

Meanwhile, Conor Sheary has been missing since the first period with what might be a lower-body injury.

The Penguins’ list of injuries is already pretty ridiculous, so if one or both of these players miss significant time, tonight will sting deeper than a setback on the scoreboard.

Update after the Penguins’ loss: Seemingly good news, if very early and vague: