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Tedenby’s Triumphant Return

Mattias Tedenby celebrating today's goal against the Islanders, his fifth of the season. Photo Credit: Seth Wenig/AP Photo

It’s been a long six games for Mattias Tedenby.

The Devils’ rookie right-winger, who struggled in December, couldn’t crack the lineup the past six games. Head coach Jacques Lemaire decided to finally give Tedenby his shot today against the New York Islanders, and he didn’t disappoint.

Tedenby assisted on Vladimir Zharkov‘s first career NHL goal and scored his own in the second to finish with two points in a 5-2 win. He finished with two shots and plus-2 in 12:01 of ice time.

It seems that, after today’s performance, Tedenby found himself a roster spot. Hopefully he remains in the lineup, because his performance shows his ability to become a top-six forward on this team.

Only 15 days ago, it seemed Tedenby would follow the path of Niclas Bergfors. Last season, Bergfors started hot but fell out of favor with Lemaire. The Devils’ coach cited poor defensive play for benching Bergfors, and it lead to him heading to Atlanta in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade.

Lemaire echoed those same statements about Tedenby, telling the media the young forward needed to impress him in practice and improve defensively. But after today’s game, his answer changed.

“I wanted to get the guys to know the defensive game that we wanted to play and I was teaching that,” Lemaire told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “I didn’t know him at all as a player and I felt it was easier. I liked  (Adam) Mair. I liked what he did for us. He’s really intense in practices. He wants to play. He does everything you ask him and that’s why I kept him in the lineup.

“Now that I feel that we’re past that step (with) our defensive game, although there’s always improvement you can bring, now we’re looking at a different aspect of our game.”

He also liked what Tedenby brought to the ice today.

“He played really well,” Lemaire said to Gulitti. “I’m happy the way he controls the puck, the way he skates all of that. I thought he played a real good game, real good game. Despite the fact that he scored, he was good with the puck and did some good stuff that we’re asking.”

During his six-game absence, Tedenby said he tried to learn Lemaire’s system.

“I didn’t think too much,” he told Gulitti. “I just waited and tried to look at Jacques’ system when I was scratched. I tried to take it in so when I touched the ice here today I was knew exactly what to do. So, it was actually maybe good.”

Tedenby brought speed, excitement and his offensive prowess to the ice today. His second period goal, which extended the Devils lead to 3-0, showcased all those things. Mark Fraser had his point shot knocked down in the left circle, and Tedenby wheeled around the net and grabbed the puck. He deked around Andrew MacDonald and moved into the slot. Tedenby froze Kevin Poulin with a fake shot, then beat the Isles goalie with a beautiful backhand shot. Here’s the video of the goal:

Tedenby also played a solid defensive game. He’ll never be a great defensive forward, but he needs to backcheck. We’ve already seen Kovalchuk commit to that more, and Tedenby seems to get the point.

Hopefully this will be the beginning of a great finish for the young right-winger. Tedenby leads all Devils’ rookies in points, goals and assists. He’s a threat to score each time he steps on the ice, something sorely lacking on the roster right now. More playing time will continue to help his development and, hopefully, he’ll continue to wow his coaches and teammates.

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For a recap of today’s Devils win over the Islanders, read my game recap on SB Nation New York.

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