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Day-by-day approach helped Salvador in recovery

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Day-by-day approach helped Salvador in recovery
After missing last season with an inner-ear concussion, Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador has been a big part of the team's playoff success.

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador prefers the glass half-full.

How else can you explain his determined ascent up the team's defensive depth chart in 2011-12 after sitting out an entire 82-game season with an inner-ear concussion?

"Every season is different in kind of what you go through and I think not playing was more of going through the experience of not playing and everyone else still playing," Salvador told NHL.com. "You kind of get a glimpse of what life is like without hockey; a different perspective on the game."

What Salvador learned was that not being able to contribute was a pretty tough pill to swallow. But he realized, eventually he would get that opportunity again despite the fact his 2010-11 campaign lasted just three preseason games after suffering a head injury against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sept. 28, 2010 that landed him on long-term injured reserve.

"My approach to a lot of things is control what you can and don't worry about what you can't," he said. "I try to keep a lot of those thoughts out where you look forward six or seven months and try to plan those things … I just tried to stay away from that.

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"It's all about what do we know today and once we have those answers, we didn't even have to think about not being able to play anymore. It was more about getting healthier."

What we know is that a healthy Salvador, one of just two defensemen in the Devils' lineup to play in all 82 regular-season game this season, has played a major role in New Jersey's Stanley Cup push.

In 12 games he's a plus-8, which is tied for first in the League among defensemen. On top of that, his stay-at-home style has complemented offensive-minded defense partner Marek Zidlicky. And his two goals and four assists in 12 playoff games already is more offense than he had in the regular season, when he had just nine assists.

"I like him," Zidlicky said. "He's worked hard every game and at practice. He supports the offensive zone, too."

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello had nothing but praise for the 36-year-old veteran blueliner.

"I'm just so happy for Sal," Lamoriello said. "The year that he put in last year and not knowing whether he'd ever play again up until the middle of the summer and the work put in to get himself back, the exercises and all of the above, he is such a quality individual. There are stories within stories of this team this year and he is certainly one of the big ones that has gone unnoticed."

Unnoticed only because Salvador prefers it that way.

"I think every concussion is different, to be honest," he said. "I don't think you'd find a doctor who would say any one concussion is the same as someone else's. I just really knew it felt right around draft time [in June]. Lou asked me and I said 'Yeah, I'll be ready late summer.'

"The timing was perfect to be able to come back and train with everyone else in the summer. If I came back in December, it would be tough."

Salvador said once doctors determined it was an inner-ear concussion, he underwent plenty of eye and balance therapy sessions. He also visited ear doctors on a regular basis.

"It really wasn't any one of them saying I was cleared, it was a situation where I would be able to tell," Salvador said.

And how does it feel to be contributing in such a big spot in the playoffs?

"It's one of those feelings where every player, whether you're scoring goals, fighting or hitting, has that inner desire to feel like they're contributing, so I think to have a feeling you're contributing and helping the team is a great feeling," Salvador said. "Contributing as a player is great and it's even better when you're winning, so it's one thing to have a good season personally, but if the team isn't really having success than the feeling just isn't the same."

It's a pretty good bet Salvador's teammates are feeling pretty good entering Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) against the New York Rangers.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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