Bryce Salvador, Scott Hartnell

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.

Tippett wins 500th game as ‘Yotes bury Flames in overtime

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Coyotes grinded their way through the tough stretches, relied on great goaltending and won it on a big goal at the end.

Call it a Dave Tippett special.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored in overtime, Mike Smith stopped 25 shots and the Arizona Coyotes beat the Calgary Flames 2-1 Friday night for coach Tippett’s 500th career victory.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of ugly games in that 500, so it’s probably fitting that was an ugly game,” said Tippett, who has 229 wins with Arizona and the rest with Dallas.

It certainly was right out of the Tippett playbook.

The Coyotes played a solid first period and both teams scored goals in the second on caroms: Martin Hanzal early for Arizona, Mark Giordano late on a power play for Calgary.

Arizona followed with a series of penalties, but Smith was sharp for the second straight game to send this one to overtime.

The Flames had the edge early in the 3-on-3 overtime, leaving the Coyotes gasping for air. Arizona flipped the ice for the final stretch, leaving Calgary’s players winded and scrambling.

Arizona won it with 39 seconds left on the clock when Brad Richardson sent a pass from behind the goal to Ekman-Larsson, and he one-timed it past Karri Ramos.

After the game, the Coyotes handed their championship belt, awarded to the player of the game, to their low-key coach after his milestone victory.

“Coaches don’t have many milestones, but that’s a big one,” Smith said. “Players have milestones all the time, but coaches only have winning, which is all that matters, really.”

The Flames certainly had their chances to win.

Calgary had a rare power-play goal when Giordano scored his fifth of the season, but the Flames failed on five other chances with the man advantage to lose to Arizona for the first time in six games.

Ramos stopped 18 in his first loss in five career games against Arizona and the Flames lost for the first time in six 3-on-3 overtimes.

“It was a good road game,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “We played smart, we played hard, it’s just the result, we wish we could change it.”

The Flames were coming off one of their worst performances of a disappointing season, blowing an early two-goal lead and a one-goal lead in the third period for a 5-3 loss to Anaheim on Tuesday night.

The Flames went straight to Arizona, where they watched the Coyotes beat Anaheim 4-2 on Wednesday night.

They played well and so did the Coyotes in a crisp first period.

Arizona needed 29 seconds of the second to take the lead, when a sharp-angle shot by Tobias Rieder hit the far post and caromed off Hanzal into the goal.

Smith stopped 29 shots against the Ducks and was sharp again, turning away some tough chances when the Flames picked up the pressure after Hanzal’s goal.

The Coyotes took a series of penalties, though, and Giordano scored late in the period by wristing a loose puck through Smith’s legs to tie the game at 1-all. That ended a 0 for 16 streak on the power play for Calgary.

Arizona kept sending players to the penalty box in the third period. The Coyotes killed off one penalty early and were called for another 8 seconds later but killed off both to get the game to overtime.

“Obviously, we’d like to score on those power plays and grab some momentum, but we did some good things,” Flames defenseman Kris Russell said. “I thought we played a good game throughout, but at the end of the day, on special teams, we get one there, that’s the difference in the game.”

NOTES: Coyotes captain Shane Doan missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. … The Flames entered the game 29th on the power play with eight goals in 58 chances (13.3 percent). … Calgary C Jiri Hudler returned after missing two games with an illness.

Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

Niklas Kronwall
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When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

(His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

First, the Kronwalling:

Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

Jack Eichel
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The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.