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

Brad Staubitz, Anssi Salmela

New Jersey Devils’ Anssi Salmela, right, looks to pass away from San Jose Sharks’ Brad Staubitz during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 2, 2010, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)


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.