New Jersey Devils D Anssi Salmela draws praise in his North American debut

When you are vying to make the team, you need to stand out from your competition. That’s exactly what New Jersey Devils defenseman Anssi Salmela did last night in his pre-season debut against the New York Rangers. Anssi logged 17:42 of ice time and delivered 5 hits in last night’s game, while also seeing some time at the point on the power play, and was impressive, making quick decisions. New Jersey’s blueline already consists of seven defenseman on one-way contracts, so the task ahead is a tough one for Salmela, who led all SM-Liiga defenseman in goals in 2007-08. Last night’s effort moved him much closer to that goal of being on New Jersey’s opening night roster. With five of six defensemen already pencilled in, there is only one remaining spot on the Devils’ blueline.


Salmela impresses Sutter

I’ll have to admit I was wrong because everyone else seemed to be impressed with Anssi Salmela’s play in the Devils’ 3-2 preseason win over the Rangers tonight.

Most notable among those impressed was Devils coach Brent Sutter.

“I thought he played well,” Sutter said. “He was involved in the game. He made some good decision with the puck. He made some good decisions on the blue line when he had the puck in the offensive zone. He knew how to get pucks through to the net. He played well. When he was in situations to finish checks he didn’t take himself out of position to finish a check and yet he was assertive in doing so.”

Sutter was not aware that Salmela played a physical game.

“I found out tonight it was,” he said. “I had never seen him play before. He played well.”

Salmela said the hits, he delivered a hip check on Brandon Dubinsky in front of the Devils’ bench 2:49 into the game, helped him get into the flow.

“If you can play with the puck and get a couple of hits, it helps you get in the game, so I tried to get a couple of hits at the start of the game,” he said.

Salmela was satisfied with his performance.

“It was OK, I thought,” he said. “I got to play a little bit on the point on the power play, so that helped to get into the game.”

Salmela said his knee, which kept him out of most of the team’s developmental camp in July, has not bothered him so far in training camp.

“It’s good,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a little sore, but it’s OK right now.”