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Phoenix Coyotes at New Jersey Devils: Salmela Returns Against The Coyotes

Scratch Anssi Salmela off the long list of injured New Jersey Devils.

Salmela will make his season debut tonight as the Devils (8-19-2) face off against the Phoenix Coyotes (14-8-6) tonight at the Prudential Center.

Salmela last played hockey in late May, skating with Team Finland at the ILG Games. The Devils defenseman tore his anterior crucial ligament, and underwent surgery in New Jersey over the summer.

Devils coach John MacLean was excited to get Salmela and his offensive abilities back in the lineup.

"Anssi skates really well. He jumps into the play," MacLean said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. "And he's played. He's a veteran. He's been around. And he has a terrific shot from the point, so we'll get him using that and getting some shots through to the net for us."

MacLean paired Salmela with Anton Volchenkov for tonight's game, an opportunity that excited Salmela.

"I'm looking forward to it," Salmela said to Gulitti. "He's a good defenseman and I have to play good with him. I think we have good chemistry. Our personalities are the same, so that's good."

The return of Salmela highlights an important game for the Devils. With only 18 points in 29 games, New Jersey is facing an increasing reality of missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons. The Devils, losers of five straight, need wins to climb out of their deep hole.

New Jersey, however, hasn't been strong on home ice. In their past two home games, they've been outscored 4-0 in the opening two minutes of the first period. MacLean stressed the importance of being ready from the start.

"We have to be ready from the get-go," MacLean said. "Definitely we have to be ready. From the get-go, you have to have your mind clear and be prepared to play. Things happen quickly in this game whether it's the first of the game or the 15th minute of the game.

"Things happen quickly. You have to be ready to go at all times."

The Devils gave up two goals in the first two minutes in a 4-1 loss to the Red Wings Saturday.

Tomas Holmstrom deflected a Pavel Datsyuk past Martin Brodeur to give Detroit a 1-0 lead 28 seconds into the game. Dan Cleary followed that up at 1:48 of the period, firing a wrist shot past Brodeur to extend the lead to 2-0.

Henrik Zetterberg stretched the lead to 3-0 in the second period. Patrik Elias broke the shutout in the third period, but it was too little, too late. Datsyuk sealed the win with a goal at 10:12 of the third period.

The Devils will lean on their powerplay to get them going tonight. In the past four games, the Devils went 6-for-15 with the man advantage. MacLean said Salmela will get time on the man advantage.

"There's definitely a possibility that he'll get an opportunity there," MacLean said.

Salmela, who played two games with the Albany Devils, felt his conditioning stint readied him for tonight's game.

"You get a little bit of confidence that you can play this game," Salmela said. "It's faster and tougher here, but it just helps you to get ready and get a couple of good hits and good shifts and get into it."