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Salvador ready after lost season

Saturday, 09.17.2011 / 7:14 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Salvador ready after lost season
Salvador passed his physical Friday and was on the ice for the start of camp on Saturday. (New Jersey Devils)
Bryce Salvador hasn’t played an NHL game in nearly a year. But he was finally back where he belonged on Saturday, stepping out on the ice at AmeriHealth Pavilion for the start of training camp.

After the long road back from a concussion, the hard-hitting defenseman is finally ready to patrol the Devils blue line once again. He's been away from the game since Sept. 28, when he was forced to leave a preseason game against Philadelphia.

“It was just fun to be back,” Salvador said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had that energy going through me, the nervousness, just the fun and the competitive spirit of being back. It was kind of nice to be alive again. It’s good to be back out there.”

Salvador took part in the day's second session, which included fourth-overall pick, defenseman Adam Larsson

“Timing’s off a little bit but that’ll come pretty quick,” Salvador said. “It’s just going to be good to be back every day and having that mindset of coming back to the rink every day. Looking forward to it. We’ve got a lot of great veterans here and a good group of young guys coming up. It’s just fun to be back in that atmosphere.”

His conditioning levels are right where he wants them coming out of the long layoff. The last time he played a game that counted, it was Game 5 of the Devils’ 2010 playoff series with the Flyers.

“I feel really good,” he said. “From a conditioning standpoint I feel really good. The more important thing is just getting the timing back. Being out there, just being in situations, reading, reacting, breaking up two-on-ones, three-on-ones, just getting back into that mindset of reading the plays and situations. That’s what you need to get back into, and you get that way by practicing every day.”

Physical play has always been a part of his game, and that’s not something he expects to change now. That applies fighting, too.

“Not at all,” he said. “I think that’s part of the game, part of the edge. You need to have that. You can’t take certain parts out of your game. As soon as you try to change the way you play or react, in my opinion, it’s time to pack it in.”

Given the number of youngsters at this year’s camp, the 35-year-old considers himself a potential mentor for the up-and-comers.

“I think playing defense is by far the hardest position for a young kid to step into and to be able to play consistent,” Salvador said. “I think if you’re going to be taking one of the six positions, playing regularly every night, you have to be ready to play or be able to be mentally tough for the up and downs. If I can help some of the young kids understand that and come in and help them from a professional standpoint with how to be prepared every night, that’d be a great role to take.”

Larsson, who turns 19 in November, is among this year’s hopefuls. Even after an hour on the ice, it was easy for Salvador to see why.

“He skates well and he handles the puck well,” he said. “He seems quite composed. From talking to him and just from what I’ve heard, he’s played elite hockey over in Europe. He’s definitely got the skill set. You don’t want to put too much pressure on him. Playing defense in this League as a young d-man is very difficult. You just let him develop and not too much pressure on him. I think we’ve got a gem in him.”

Notes and quotes
Salvador was asked if he saw himself as a candidate for the Devils' captaincy, which has been vacant since Jamie Langenbrunner was traded to Dallas in January.

"I haven’t even thought about something like that," he said. "That’s something that I don’t really spend much time thinking about. Everyone’s a leader in their own way and how they lead. Letters for me have never really meant anything from my personal standpoint other than just coming out and leading by example. Whatever the organization decides to do, I think there’s a lot of great leaders in here. A lot of captain-material guys in here. I think it’s going to be a great decision no matter who they pick."