Bryce Salvador, Scott Hartnell

Devils coach Pete DeBoer hoping for big comeback from Bryce Salvador

Bryce Salvador’s absence from the New Jersey Devils lineup last season is one that initially didn’t appear to be a big loss. The way it worked out for New Jersey, however, wasn’t good as the Devils finished out of the playoffs and went through a laundry list of names of guys that filled in on the blue line.

Salvador’s veteran presence and steady defensive play were two things the Devils could’ve used a lot of last season and with Salvador out of action for the year with a cochlear concussion suffered during a preseason fight, he wasn’t there to help the team try to win games. Now that Salvador is recovered from his concussion problem and ready to get back to action, things are about to get steady again in New Jersey.

For new Devils coach Peter DeBoer, he’ll be more than happy to have Salvador back in the lineup and he’s got big expectations from the 35 year-old blue liner. Rich Chere of The Newark Star-Ledger has the story.

“I’ve seen him skating here and talked to him a few times. He’s taken some bumps but sounds real optimistic,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “At least in my mind, I’m going in figuring this guy is going to be a part of our opening day roster and ready to go.”

Salvador, 35, believes he is ready. He skated and trained hard this summer.

But Devils management is being cautious.

“We’re waiting for the physical for him to get clearance. All indications are that he will, but we don’t know yet,” general manager Lou Lamoriello said.

If Salvador can get back in the lineup and be a solid contributor once again as a stopper, he’ll join a defensive corps that includes fellow top defender Anton Volchenkov, puck movers Andy Greene and  Henrik Tallinder, and young potential starters in Matt Taormina and 2011 first round pick Adam Larsson. That mix of veteran experience and youthful energy could help the Devils get back in the playoffs but being able to keep opponents off the board while goalie Martin Brodeur is on the backside of his career is part of the trick of trying to get the Devils back to their old glory.

Banking on Salvador to play hard minutes for the Devils will also make for a curious test for a guy coming off of a concussion. While a cochlear concussion is a bit different than the standard concussion we’re used to hearing about, it was an injury bad enough to keep him out of action all last season. Coming back after that much time lost can either recharge his batteries or show him that the game has gotten by him. We’re hoping for Salvador’s case he comes back as strong as ever and can avoid dropping the gloves unnecessarily.

Devils unveil ‘The Salute’ statue in honor of Martin Brodeur

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The New Jersey Devils on Monday unveiled ‘The Salute’ — a statue paying homage to one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, Martin Brodeur, who will have his No. 30 uniform retired Tuesday at Prudential Center.

“Looking at the pictures of my career and some of the events that meant a lot to me, I always saluted the fans,” Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Devils, told the Fire and Ice blog.

“That picture, at different times, in different jerseys, actually, like with Team Canada, it all came to that same pose.”

More on the statue from the Devils:

The 900-pound bronze statue was created by renowned sculpture and artist Jon Krawczyk, who worked with Brodeur on the design. Krawczyk, a Boonton Township, N.J. native and lifelong Devils fan, who also created the hockey statue on Championship Plaza outside of Prudential Center, personally drove “The Salute” from his Malibu, Cali. studio to the arena late last week.

Video: Panthers furious after Abdelkader ‘cheap shot’ hit on Barkov

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The Florida Panthers are fuming after their skilled 20-year-old forward Aleksander Barkov left Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings following a hit from Justin Abdelkader.

Abdelkader caught Barkov with a hard hit near the goal line as the Panthers player tried to move the puck up ice early in the second period.

The only call on the play was to Panthers’ blue liner Alex Petrovic for the retaliatory cross check on Abdelkader. Barkov left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury.

Members of the Panthers irate with the hit, and the fact there was no call.

“It was a cheap hit, I don’t know how the ref didn’t call it,” Nick Bjugstad told the Miami Herald. “It was frustrating, the whole bench felt that way. We’re not happy with it. It turned the game around. Barkov has tough shoes to fill. It looked pretty serious. We’ll see how the league handles it and I think they will. I just don’t know how it wasn’t handled on the ice.”

“You hate to lose your top player, but that’s part of the game,” added Panthers’ head coach Gerard Gallant.

“We’re disappointed to lose him. I thought it was a cheap shot but the referees didn’t see it that way and explained to me it was a clean check. It’s tough. It happens quick and we get to see the replay. I think it’ll be looked at. [Abdelkader] left his feet a little and got him in the jaw.”

The Panthers gave up three goals in the third period in a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings.

Penguins thump the Ducks as Crosby’s hot streak continues

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In a meeting between two clubs enjoying hot streaks and their own subsequent climbs through the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins bested the Anaheim Ducks courtesy another dominant Sidney Crosby performance on Monday.

After that slow start, Crosby has put together a growing number of dominant performances of late.

The latest, a four-point night, helped the Penguins to a 6-2 final over the Ducks, stopping Anaheim’s winning streak at six games.

— He extended his scoring streak to a career best seven games, and did so with two beauty goals versus the Ducks.

— From Dec. 18 to Feb. 8, he’s appeared in 21 games. In that span, he’s recorded 34 points.

— Crosby is now into the top five among NHL players in points, with 53 in 51 games this season.

He wasn’t the only Pittsburgh player to have a big night. Keep in mind, Evgeni Malkin wasn’t even in the lineup due to a lower-body injury.

Ten different Penguins players recorded points. In addition to Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang had multi-point efforts, and four players — Kunitz, Crosby, Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist — were plus-four.

The Penguins now move into third in the Metropolitan Division, while the New York Islanders slip into the first Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh’s lead over the Islanders, however, is only one point.

The Islanders also have a game in hand.

Panthers’ Barkov (upper-body injury) leaves game versus Red Wings

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The Florida Panthers will be without Aleksander Barkov for the remainder of their game versus the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

As per multiple reports, Barkov will not return due to an upper-body injury suffered after a hit from Justin Abdelkader early in the second period.

Abdelkader wasn’t given a penalty on the play. Barkov didn’t play another shift after that hit.

In 42 games this season, the 20-year-old Barkov has 16 goals and 35 points.