Bryce Salvador set to return to Devils after missing last season with a concussion

Not all concussion-related news in the NHL is bad news these days. While the struggles of Sidney Crosby and David Perron are disconcerting, the comebacks of guys like Nathan Horton and Peter Mueller are great news to read. You can add another name to the positive list in New Jersey Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador.

Salvador has been battling a cochlear (inner ear) concussion for nearly a year after suffering the injury during preseason last year. After a pair of separate incidents, the Devils season filled with injuries was well underway last September starting with Salvador’s concussion woes. With Salvador out, the Devils had to rely on a host of different young blue liners to help fill out ranks as the team struggled all season long.

Now, Salvador is feeling healthy and ready to roll in training camp with New Jersey as he tells Fire & Ice’s Tom Gulitti. Salvador is waiting for the final approval to resume full workouts from doctors but is eager and ready to roll just the same. After being out that long, is he worried about suffering another concussion? Well…

“There’s really no concern about my long-term health, actually,” he said. “The doctors have already put me through a lot of those tests, so I’m pretty excited about that. If I get hurt, I get hurt. That’s just the game. I’m in a good situation where I don’t have to be concerned about a lot of things.”

There is a difference also because of the type of concussion Salvador had.

“Everyone goes through a different situation, so you can’t really compare everyone,” he said. “Mine more stems from the inner ear, so it wasn’t really a blow where I was taken off on a stretcher. I don’t want to generalize, but I know that it could just be two completely different types of concussions. There are various concussions, so maybe if I was in a situation where I’d taken a devastating blow to the head where I was knocked unconscious maybe I’d be a little bit more concerned.”

This is great news to see Salvador so beaming with excitement but also not stressing himself out with how things will go once he’s back to action and being so calm about the injury as well. Going back out there without fear is something you wonder about given how seemingly simple it can be for a previous concussion suffer can be re-injured. In Salvador’s case, since his was more of an inner ear issue than anything else, he may not have to stress so much or live in fear of getting his career potentially ended on a fluke play.

As it is, Salvador’s problems have come courtesy of a puck and punches to the head as well as straight body contact. Any of those things can occur in a game at a given moment. Salvador being brave enough to go back out there without worry makes him a lot tougher than we would be.

A healthy Salvador also helps make the Devils defense tougher to deal with. With Colin White out of town now, he’d jump back in the lineup with Anton Volchenkov as their only other top defensive blue liner. Guys like Henrik Tallinder and Andy Greene are better puck movers or offensive options while other guys like Mark Fraser, Mark Fayne, and Matt Taormina are still as yet untested. Whether or not 2011 first rounder Adam Larsson can crack the lineup or not also remains to be seen.

The Devils priding themselves on being strong defensively is the thing of legend by now, but a healthy Bryce Salvador will help them to better live up to their reputation. Here’s to hoping his concussion problems are a thing of the past.

Talbot torments Ducks as Oilers take 2-0 series lead

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Those who vehemently argued for Cam Talbot being a Vezina finalist likely felt vindicated tonight (even if postseason results don’t factor into the voting).

In Game 1, Leon Draisaitl stole the show. Talbot was the standout of Game 2, snubbing a steady Ducks threat as Edmonton won 2-1 on Friday.

And, just like that, the Oilers are up 2-0 in their second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. Better yet for this young group: the venue shifts to what’s likely to be a rowdy scene in Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.

The tone was set when Andrej Sekera scored just 65 seconds into the contest. That said, the Oilers could have sulked when a would-be 2-0 goal was called off (and they had to kill a penalty). Instead, they just kept battling, even after Jakob Silfverberg ended Talbot’s shutout bit with a laser beam on the power play.

Speaking of the power play, the Oilers managed to match the Ducks (1-for-4 each on the PP), even as Talbot faced 12 shots on goal during Anaheim’s power-play opportunities.

Talbot ultimately made 39 of 40 stops, and while the Ducks kept Connor McDavid from scoring, number 97 sure looked speedy and dangerous at times in Game 2.

Anaheim came into the second round with home-ice advantage through the West side of the playoffs, seemingly enjoying a golden opportunity when other conference powers fell. Instead, it’s looking like the Oilers might just have a chance to prove that they’re big-time contenders, too.

Game 3 airs on NBCSN at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream.

Latest goalie interference mess: Oilers get penalty, not goal

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Ah, goalie interference. Does the fun ever start?

Arguably the most irritating facet of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs reared its pesky head once again on Friday, as the Edmonton Oilers saw a would-be 2-0 goal disallowed in the first period of Game 2 against the Anaheim Ducks.

The goal wasn’t just disallowed, either, as Mark Letestu was given a minor penalty.

One would imagine that there are opinions for or against the goal (and penalty counting); there are also many who are just getting a little worn out by the uncertainty surrounding such calls. Tomas Holmstrom is nodding his head so hard right now, everyone.

Here’s one unhappy take:

Moments after this post went up, the Oilers made it 2-0 for real this time. Check out the game here.

Math may help build Vegas Knights, but biggest aim is not being boring

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Unlike Pierre Dorion, it sounds like Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee would rather listen to analytics-minded people rather than … you know, hit them.

As McPhee readies for the expansion draft, he told The Star’s Kevin McGran in Q&A that they’ll at least be factored into decisions.

I’ve been really fascinated by how revealing that data can be. You have these kids speaking a different language. But I’m convinced it has a really important place in this game. You have to pay attention to it, and you have to use it.

Naturally, the real question with McPhee and other executives comes down to how much they will lean on analytics. Some teams seem to pick and choose when to listen to such voices, ending up with an odd mix of moves that please and unnerve the “fancy stats” community.

Owner Bill Foley gave a good idea of how much they’ll lean on stats vs. more traditional approaches in an interview with the Vegas Hockey Hotline back in February, which was transcribed by The Hockey Writers’ Keith Scheessele.

“Analytics is not going to drive how we draft,” Foley said. “Analytics are going to supplement what the scouts are seeing. We’re going to rely on the scouts and what they recommend.”

(Foley also spoke of rating players in 10 different categories, which started to make one think about how old sports video games could only quantify skills in so many ways. Anyway …)

So, it sounds like McPhee & Co. will take a modern approach – a mixture of the old and the new – rather than going full-on bold and revolutionary like, say, the Cleveland Browns or Golden State Warriors.

Considering the mystery of roster quality one faces with the Vegas Knights, it honestly might be most important that McPhee is repeatedly stating that he doesn’t aim to put together a boring hockey team.

Hey, if it takes a while to be good, at least the Vegas Knights might fit with their environment and put on a show.

Tarasenko’s two goals help Blues tie series with Predators

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One of the (many) remarkable things about the St. Louis Blues dispatching the Minnesota Wild was that they didn’t need a ton of production from Vladimir Tarasenko. He didn’t score a goal until the clinching game of that series.

The Blues needed more from him tonight, and he responded with two huge goals to help St. Louis win 3-2 in Game 2, tying the second-round series at 1-1.

Tarasenko scored the opening goal on that major power-play opportunity from the Vernon Fiddler knee on Colton Parayko, while Joel Edmundson wisely got out of the way to let Tarasenko nab the game-winner.

That ended up being the decisive factor as the Nashville Predators finally lost their first game of the postseason.

St. Louis must be breathing a sigh of relief for a number of reasons. The series shifts to Nashville for Games 3 and 4, so going down 2-0 might have been lethal.

Even beyond that, the Blues had some breaks go their way that likely won’t repeat to the same degree in future contests. The Predators didn’t receive a single power-play opportunity while St. Louis spent significant chunks of the contest on the man advantage, going 1-for-5 (but again, that includes a major).

The Blues also won despite what must have been a frustrating start. They only managed a 1-1 tie after the first 20 minutes despite holding Nashville to a mere three shots on goal.

The Predators also managed leads of 1-0 and 2-1, yet the Blues kept fighting to get back in this series. Game 3 will air on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday. You can watch online and via the NBC Sports App (Click here for the livestream link).

* – That said, he made a lot of commotion to set up Edmundson’s overtime game-winner from Game 1. That connection continued on Friday, as you likely noticed.