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.

Lundqvist snubs Sens with 21 saves in first (Video)

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You know how goalies claim they prefer to be busy rather than risking rust in seldom seeing shots? If that’s true, Henrik Lundqvist was really, really happy in the first period.

The Ottawa Senators generated chance after chance in a busy opening frame of Game 1, generating a 21-12 shot differential against the New York Rangers. The game remains 0-0 in large part because Lundqvist has carried over his momentum from the Montreal Canadiens series so far.

As you can see from the video above, Lundqvist made some absolutely fantastic saves, especially in somehow stopping Mark Stone.

In a duller game, 21 shots on goal could a team’s entire output.

That’s impressive stuff from what appears to be a “vintage” Lundqvist. We’ll see how much more the Rangers lean on him as this one goes along.

Oh, and here’s a GIF of the best stop of the bunch, because seriously.

Kunitz is in for Penguins vs. Capitals in Game 1

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The Pittsburgh Penguins get a familiar face back in the lineup, as Chris Kunitz is good to go against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

The 37-year-old has been sidelined since March 31, ending his regular season with just an assist in his final nine games. His last goal came on Feb. 16.

So, in other words … he’s not quite as big of a deal for this series as he had been in the past.

He’ll draw into a solid fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl, while Carter Rowney will be a healthy scratch. Check out the Penguins’ line combos heading into Thursday’s showdown:

Foligno, Getzlaf, Giordano vie for Messier Leadership Award

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The NHL announced the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award: Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames).

In case you’re curious about the process, the league explains how it works (and how the buck stops with Messier):

Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel as well as NHL fans to compile a list of potential candidates for the award. However, the selection of the three finalists and ultimate winner is Messier’s alone. 

So, yes, it might come down to steeliness/60.

Anyway, the most fun part of this award is that Getzlaf and Giordano just engaged in a first-round series, with Getzlaf’s hit on Giordano (see above) being one of the standout moments.

Perhaps Giordano will at least get the best of Getzlaf in this one?

WATCH LIVE: Game 1 for Penguins – Capitals, Rangers – Senators

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It’s really happening.

For all the griping about having the Penguins and Capitals meet in the second round (again), it’s easy to forget the bright side: upsets didn’t dislodge this juicy matchup from taking place.

The West’s duo of Game 1 matchups kicked into gear last night, and now the East provides that battle between Sidney Crosby‘s squad and Alex Ovechkin‘s loaded team. Don’t sleep on Rangers – Senators, either, though; there should be plenty of intrigue in seeing superhuman Swedes Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson try to one-up each other.

Here’s what you need to know to follow the action:

New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: CNBC (Stream online here)

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)