Brad Staubitz, Anssi Salmela

Defensive help on the way for Devils; Taormina recovering, Salmela ready for the ice

The news all season long for the Devils has generally been bad. While most people want to focus on Ilya Kovalchuk and his offensive struggles for the moribund team from New Jersey, what’s truly been their Achilles heel has been how bad their defense is. Today, the Devils got some good news about a pair of key players that appear close to returning to the lineup.

Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice has the update for us from New Jersey that young defenseman Matt Taormina was back on the ice skating today. Taormina suffered a high ankle sprain on November 14th and put an already shorthanded blue line corps in further peril. Another player that’s getting closer to coming back is Anssi Salmela. Gulitti reports that Salmela is in great shape and ready to get into some games.

Defenseman Anssi Salmela, who has yet to play this season after having surgery in late May to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn meniscus in his right knee, has been given the green light to start playing in games and it appears he will be headed to Albany of the AHL for a conditioning assignment. He can stay there a maximum of two weeks—longer if he and the NHL approve it.

“We’re going to make a decision to get him to play some games,” Lamoriello said. “He’s been battling quite a bit (in practice). He’s been getting the contact. The doctors said he’s probably ready to get in a game. A game is different than practice.”

Lamoriello said he’s going to “have a conversation” with Salmela today about the possibility of going to Albany on conditioning.

Every little bit will help the Devils right now and tightening up the defense and adding more talent to the blue line will help straighten things out for everyone else. Hey, something’s got to work out in New Jersey.

Sens demote former first-rounder Puempel

Matt Puempel
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Looks like Matt Puempel won’t be making the leap after all.

Puempel, the subject of Ottawa’s “looking to make the leap” profile during our Team of the Day series, has been sent down to AHL Binghamton one day prior to the Sens’ opener against Buffalo.

Puempel, taken by Ottawa in the first round (24th overall) at the ’11 draft, made his big-league debut last season and looked as though he’d stick around — only to suffer a high ankle sprain after 13 games, and miss the rest of the season.

The 22-year-old came into this year’s camp looking to secure a full-time position at the big league level, but was beaten out by Shane Prince for the final forward spot on the roster.

To be fair, contract status probably played a role. Prince would’ve had to clear waivers to get down to Bingo, whereas Puempel didn’t.

A former 30-goal scorer in the American League, Puempel is expected to get another look with Ottawa this season.

Report: Torres won’t appeal 41-game suspension


Sounds like Raffi Torres is accepting his punishment.

Per Sportsnet, Torres won’t appeal his 41-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg.

The report comes just days after the NHL’s Department of Player Safety levied one of the longest disciplinary rulings in league history, citing both the severity of the Silfverberg hit and Torres’ lengthy history of suspensions, fines and warnings.

There was some thought, however, that Torres would try to challenge the ruling.


He does have a history of success in that department. In 2012,Torres successfully appealed his suspension for a headshot on Chicago’s Marian Hossa, and had his punishment reduced from 25 games to 21.

Torres also isn’t considered a “repeat offender” under the current collective bargaining agreement, as his last suspension came in 2013.

Of course, part of that clean record is due to the fact he hasn’t played much. Torres has largely been sidelined by injury for the last two seasons, missing all of last year with knee problems.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman delved further into the repeat offender thing in his latest 30 Thoughts column:

If you read the relevant sections of the CBA, the league takes the position that the repeat offender status is only applicable to fines. Repeaters are fined on a per-game basis, non-repeaters on a per-day basis. (The former is more expensive, because there are fewer games than days in an NHL season.) However, if you go to Section 18.2, among the factors taken into account are, “the status of the offender and, specifically, whether the Player has a history of being subject to Supplementary Discipline for On-Ice Conduct.”

So, in the NHL’s view, a player’s history is relevant, even if longer than 18 months ago.

Should the report prove accurate and Torres doesn’t appeal, he will be eligible to return to action on Jan. 14, when the Sharks take on the Oilers.