Devils forward Brian Rolston practices this morning, could return soon

We know it’s been a rough season so far for the New Jersey Devils. The team is struggling, borderline bad, there are injuries all over the place, and the perpetually strong Devils defense has been shockingly poor. So what is there to be happy about if you’re a Devils fan? The imminent return of Brian Rolston to the lineup should get you a little bit excited at least. Rolston, who’s been out of the Devils lineup thanks to a sports hernia, hit the ice this morning for a full practice with the team and he’s hoping to be back in the lineup this week. Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice has the details.

It is Rolston’s first full practice with the team since having surgery to repair a sports hernia on Oct. 14.  Rolston has been skating for the last two weeks. His estimated return time was four to six weeks and this Thursday would be four weeks since his surgery. The Devils’ next game is Wednesday night against Buffalo at Prudential Center.

Getting Rolston back in the lineup would provide a nice, veteran boost to the team that’s been rolling out a host of players who should be spending more time in AHL Albany than in New Jersey. With injuries to Rolston, Zach Parise, and Jacob Josefsen, however, forwards like Alexander Vasyunov, Stephen Gionta, and Brad Mills have all had opportunities to get ice time in New Jersey. For a team that’s supposed to be a Stanley Cup contender, this is a less-than optimal situation. Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger gets more tempered optimism from Rolston about when he’ll be coming back.

“I’m not going to tell you I’m playing Wednesday,” Rolston said cautiously. “I told them I’m ready to practice with the team.”

While Rolston’s second tour of duty in New Jersey has been filled with a severe lack of offensive production and regrets from Devils fans over Rolston’s monstrous cap hit, the Devils at least don’t have to worry about making a roster move when he returns. Of course, that’s mostly thanks to the Devils still having Bryce Salvador and Zach Parise now on LTIR but that’s neither here nor there right now. The point is, someone on New Jersey that’s of some importance is getting healthy and any little bit of good news for the Devils is a good thing.

Avalanche reportedly settle with Nieto, avoiding arbitration

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Matt Nieto won’t need his arbitration hearing on Monday.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Nieto has agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

Nieto split last season between San Jose and Colorado, which claimed him off waivers in January.

In 43 games for the Avalanche, the 24-year-old forward scored seven goals with four assists.

Nieto was the only Colorado player on this summer’s arbitration list. However, the Avs still have a restricted free agent in Nikita Zadorov, who could be off to the KHL next season.

3 KHL players suspended after testing positive for banned substances

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The International Ice Hockey Federation has announced that three KHL players have been suspended after testing positive for banned substances.

Here’s an excerpt from the KHL’s website:

The IIHF has informed the KHL that three players – forward Danis Zaripov (then with Metallurg Magnitogorsk), defenseman Andrei Konev (Admiral Vladivostok) and defenseman Derek Smith (Medvescak Zagreb) – have tested positive for banned substances.

Derek Smith tested positive for a category S6.а stimulant.

Andrei Konev tested positive for a category S6.b stimulant.

Danis Zaripov tested positive for a category S6.b stimulant plus category S5 diuretics and masking agents.

Zapirov, who was part of Team Russia at the 2010 Olympic Games, has been banned from suiting up in “competitive hockey” until May 22, 2019. Konev will be unable to play until Nov. 19, 2017, while Smith, who is Canadian, will be suspended until Sep. 2, 2018.

Smith, 32, played in 94 NHL games with the Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames between 2009-10 and 2013-14.

Report: John MacLean could join Tocchet’s coaching staff in Arizona

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The Arizona Coyotes have a new head coach, but Rick Tocchet still has to fill out the rest of his staff.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the ‘Yotes might be looking to add John MacLean to their coaching staff.

MacLean, 52, spent six years as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils (2002-2009) before becoming the head coach of their AHL affiliate. After one year of coaching in the minors, MacLean was promoted to head coach of the Devils. His tenure didn’t last very long, as he was fired after just 33 games (they were 9-22-2 under his watch).

He spent the following three seasons as an assistant in Carolina, but he was let go after the 2014 season.

MacLean hasn’t been back behind an NHL bench since being let go by the ‘Canes. Instead, he’s served as a hockey analyst on various television networks.

Related:

Tocchet wants Coyotes’ young players to be ‘creative’ and ‘calculated’

Tocchet brings lessons from past mistakes (and successes) to Coyotes

Sabres re-sign Robin Lehner to one-year, $4 million deal

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The Buffalo Sabres avoided salary arbitration with goalie Robin Lehner, as they inked him to a one-year, $4 million contract on Tuesday morning.

Lehner and the Sabres were scheduled to have their hearing on July 27, but that obviously won’t be necessary anymore.

The 26-year-old played a career-high 59 games in 2016-17. He finished the year with a 23-26-8 record, a 2.68 goals-against-average and a .920 save percentage.

There’s no doubt that he’s a talented netminder, but he’s had his share of struggles when it comes to staying healthy and being consistent. Of course, the team in front of him hasn’t been very good either.

Both of Buffalo’s goalies (Lehner and Chad Johnson) will have something to prove this season because they’re both on one-year contracts. When their deals expire next summer, Lehner will be a restricted free agent again, while Johnson will be free to test the market on July 1st.

The Sabres now have just over $10.9 million in cap space with RFAs Zemgus Girgensons, Nathan Beaulieu and Evan Rodrigues still needing new contracts.

A huge extension for Jack Eichel is also on the horizon, but his new salary won’t count on the cap until 2018-19.