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|Parise, Salvador healthy and productive for Devils|
|Written by Andrew Knoll|
|Sunday, 10 June 2012 02:20|
Bryce Salvador and Zach Parise both missed significant time last season due to injuries. Now, both are healthy and playing a large part in the Devils' playoff run and in getting New Jersey back into the Stanley Cup Final.NEWARK, N.J. – The New Jersey Devils have played 105 games and counting, all of which have a grand gift for defenseman Bryce Salvador.
Salvador missed all of the 2010-2011 season with a severe, cochlear concussion. He pushed hard to return to action, training in Minnesota with Devils captain Zach Parise who missed almost all of last season with a torn meniscus.
Saturday, both men scored – Parise to get the Devils on the board and Salvador to earn the game winner.
“Zach and I joke about it. This time last year we were worried about tying our shoes up and trying to get into shape,” Salvador said Saturday.
On Friday, he said it was hard for him to imagine being in this position last year, saying he was focused on healing, feeling alive again and getting his legs back.
“A hundred games later, it’s nice to have taken the path that we did,” Salvador continued. “It took out any type of doubt in my ability to be able to come back and play at a level that I knew I could play at and continue to play after this year.”
Yet in these playoffs, Salvador has been playing arguably the best hockey of his 10-season career.
He turned in a workmanlike regular season, recording nine assists and finishing with a plus-18 rating. Yet in the postseason, he has notched four goals, 10 assists and stands a plus-10.
"It's pretty impressive. We were looking for him to score a goal all year, so he peaked at the right time, if you ask me,” joked goalie Martin Brodeur.
“I think it's great. I think it's well-deserved, especially where he came from with spending a whole year on the sidelines not playing. To be able to come back and have the season he's got, the playoffs he's got, it's a credit to get himself in the best shape he can be and well-prepared.”
Salvador was treated by the same doctor that worked with the Kings’ Willie Mitchell, who missed half of the 2009-2010 season with Vancouver with a concussion.
Unlike Mitchell, who avoided watching or dealing with hockey because it caused him mental anguish, Salvador’s distance from the ice drew him closer to the game he adored.
“I probably watched more hockey than I had ever watched,” Salvador said. “When you’re away from something you want to do, you become the biggest fan again. You appreciate it all over again.”
Kings winger Simon Gagne sustained his third concussion in five years on Dec. 26. He did not play from that point until Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Rather than commend players whose machismo rushed them back into action, he lauded players like Salvador who took appropriate time to heal in the face of urgency to get back on the ice.
“All the credit to those guys who go through this injury and take the right amount of time. It doesn’t look too good when you miss a full season,” Gagne said. “It takes a lot for a player to say ‘I’m going to take the time to heal.’ You’re getting pressure from yourself, from fans but you need to be honest with yourself.”
After his year off, Salvador has gone from being sidelined to getting heavy ice time, from forgotten man to featured player. Kings forward Justin Williams identified him as a key defenseman that the Kings had "focused on" and praised his timely play.
“He seems to be their physical presence on the back end," Williams said. "You’re going to know what you’re getting. You’re going to get a hit from him, you’re going to have to take a bump to make a play and he’s had a heck of a playoff run."
Photos by Getty Images