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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Salvador a most improbable hero for Devils

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NEWARK, N.J. -- The Stanley Cup playoffs usually produce a couple of unlikely heroes. Count New Jersey veteran defenceman Bryce Salvador as one.

Stuck without a goal in the regular season, the Brandon product has discovered a post-season scoring touch, and has been a key cog in helping the Devils reach the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2003.

After missing last season with an inner-ear concussion, the 36-year-old scored twice as the Devils ousted the Philadelphia Flyers in five games in Round 2. Not bad for someone who had 23 career goals in 692 regular-season games across a decade-long NHL career.

New Jersey, the No. 6 seed with 102 points in the regular season, will play either the New York Rangers or the Washington Capitals in Round 3 next week.

As anyone who watches the Devils regularly will say, the goals are just a bonus for Salvador. After all, his job is to protect the region in front of goaltender Martin Brodeur. And through two rounds, it's so far, so good.

Salvador is a plus-8 in 12 games -- tied for second best in the league -- and his stay-at-home style has allowed defensive partner Marek Zidlicky more freedom to get involved in the offence. Salvador laughed when asked about having his goal-scoring touch back. His first -- keep in mind -- went into an empty net in Game 2 vs. the Flyers.

"You mean since I was 10," Salvador said. "I just think it is everyone buying into the system and good things are happening for everyone."

The Devils -- who would open Round 3 on the road, should the Rangers win Game 7 on Saturday, and start at home, should the Capitals win -- skated hard for an hour on Thursday after getting Wednesday off. Either way, Salvador was relaxed after the workout.

And with good reason.

This has been a special season for him. His 2010-11 campaign last just three pre-season games, ending with that concussion. He suffered it against the Flyers on Sept. 28, 2010.

"It has been a great experience," Salvador said. "I went through a little phase where you really start to appreciate the game again, when you are faced with that situation that you might not play again. You look at everything all over."

NOTES: If the Rangers win Game 7 over the Capitals, it'll mark the sixth time that New York and New Jersey will have played in the post-season.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2012 C2

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