New York Hockey: Mattias Tedenby

Tedenby emerges as Devils' unlikely hero

February, 8, 2011

NEWARK, N.J. -- Coming off a third-period benching in Montreal against the Canadiens on Sunday afternoon, New Jersey Devils rookie left winger Mattias Tedenby was the last player you would expect to be absent from the ice during Tuesday morning's optional skate.

But while most of his teammates were honing their skills before a critical game against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Prudential Center, Tedenby was nowhere to be found, instead opting to stay home and rest.

Smart move, kid.

Bold. But smart.

Eventually, the 20-year-old did make his way to the rink before game time and ended up scoring two goals, including the game-winner with 2:18 left in overtime, lifting the Devils to a dramatic 3-2 comeback victory over the Hurricanes.

AP Photo/Julio CortezTwo goals? Yep, that's reason for Mattias Tedenby to celebrate.

"Yeah, of course it's nice to score and nice to get two points again," said the soft-spoken Swede, who tallied his sixth and seventh goals of the season, his first in eight games. "We keep winning and that’s a very fun thing. We enjoy it more."

Although Tedenby wouldn't admit to it, his time playing for interim coach Jacques Lemaire has been anything but enjoyable. Tedenby was a healthy scratch just three games ago, and did not suit up for the first six games after Lemaire stepped in to replace John MacLean.

"I thought he was good in the offensive zone with the puck," said Lemaire, who believes Tedenby’s defense still leaves much to be desired. "He was making things happen. He was probably the second-best, even the best offensive player tonight overall. But the thing is, there's certain shifts he didn't go on. That line [Jason Arnott and Vladimir Zharkov] was going and they were in our end every time they went on. That's why he probably had 10 minutes [of ice time]."

Tedenby made the most of what little opportunity he was given. After receiving a drop pass from Travis Zajac in the Carolina zone, Tedenby sped in and beat Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward with a wrist shot between the circles at 2:42 of the extra session, capping off an improbable win, one which brought the Devils to within 15 points of Carolina for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"Teddy has to improve a little bit in certain areas," Lemaire said. "But offensively he's really good."

Tedenby’s first goal of the game -- his first since Jan. 17 -- came at 11:33 of the second period. Following a fortuitous bounce off the end boards on Colin White's shot from the left point, Tedenby was stationed right in front to receive Arnott's backhanded pass through the crease and tap it into the net.

"It was a great play by him," Tedenby said of Arnott. "Very nice play."

It was a moment Tedenby needed with his confidence waning.

Lemaire wouldn't disclose why he benched Tedenby in the third period in Montreal, saying "it's personal."

Tedenby must've taken the message to heart. And by that he must’ve taken it to mean he should stay home for Tuesday morning's optional skate.

"Most young guys would come," Lemaire said. "But I gave him the option to stay home. So he stayed home."

Should that trend continue?

"For him, maybe," Lemaire said. "Not for other guys."

Devilish details

January, 12, 2011
With five days between games this week, there’s not a lot of action surrounding the Devils. But the media has still managed to pick up on some pretty interesting storylines. Here's a sample.

Evening Links

For you history buffs, Mark Fraser talks with Tom Gulitti about his war-hero grandfather in the Fire and Ice blog.

Also from Gulitti, Patrik Elias feels uncomfortable with attending the all-star game given the Devils’ struggles this season, but is honored to be selected. And with the new format for player captains picking teams at the event, the gracious veteran says he “can deal with it” if he’s the last player off the board.

There was a time this season when Mattias Tedenby was one of the few sparks among the Devils forwards. But the Star-Ledger’s Dave Hutchinson writes that the rookie’s approach is at odds with the game plan new head coach Jacques Lemaire’s style of play.

Hutchinson also writes up some notes from practice, where Lemaire was a no-show due to last night’s snow storm.

In Lou We Trust looks at former draft picks comparable to the conditional pick obtained for Jamie Langenbrunner.

The SB Nation site also offers a really interesting look into the cap implications of drafting high in the first round, particularly poignant given the Devils’ severe cap difficulties. The average cap hit for recent No. 1 picks? About $3.7 million. That would have a pretty big impact, one way or another, on the Zach Parise negotiations I would think.

W2W4: Rangers vs. Devils

December, 29, 2010
The Rangers crossed the icy waters of the Hudson to take on the Devils Wednesday night. Here are three factors to keep in mind when the action starts.

Going Green?

The Rangers are coming off a 7-2 rout of the New York Islanders. The Devils … well … aren’t. New Jersey has scored just five goals in five games, never lighting the lamp more than once in each contest. The first thing Jacques Lemaire needs to do with the Devs is convince them that there are better ways to conserve electricity.

The best bet for the Devils to ignite some offensive fireworks will likely come from their top line of Ilya Kovalchuk-Travis Zajac-Mattias Tedenby. Those are the best playmakers this team has (with the possible exception of Patrik Elias), but they’ll also be facing the Rangers’ top defensive pairing of Marc Staal and Daniel Girardi. Over the past six games the defensive duo has combined for a plus-five rating.

A Brodeur Bounceback

By his excellent standards, Martin Brodeur is having a horrible season. The super goalie hasn’t posted a GAA over 3 or a save percentage under .900 since his first four-game taste of the league in 1991-92. But, as you may have guessed from that intro, he hasn’t cleared either of those marks this season. In practice, Brodeur took out his frustrations on an unfortunate goalie stick, so you can bet he’ll put some pressure on himself to perform well against a familiar foe. In his only meeting with the Blueshirts this season he allowed 2 goals on 33 shots.

Going Streaking

Derek Stepan is scalding hot right now, as is the whole Ranger top line of Mats Zuccarello, Stepan and Marian Gaborik. The rookie has goals in four straight and really seems to have found his stride between two other playmakers. Stepan’s streak is injecting him back into the Calder Trophy race in my humble opinion and if he continues to center Gaborik, I’d expect him to remain in the thick of that hunt for the rest of the season.

Stepan has been a large part of the Rangers’ scoring boost this season, with the Blueshirts currently boasting a 3.1 goals-per-game average. The last time the Rangers were over 3 goals per game for the season was 2005-06 when just about every team enjoyed a scoring boost due to the new rules and stricter penalty enforcement coming out of the lockout.

Donnie Pucks: What we learned about the Devils in November

December, 1, 2010
Mattias Tedenby is a player.

This 20-year-old, 5-foot 10-inch spitfire has appeared in just nine games and already has three goals and three assists. He tallied a penalty-shot goal and has shown that he can take a beating, and keep on skating and making plays. He has given the New Jersey Devils some hope.

Thank heaven for Johan Hedberg.

At the start of the season, Hedberg looked like a huge mistake. But he won four games in November and has been solid since Martin Brodeur's injury. He was flat-out awesome against the Flyers on Nov. 27. Since the return date of Marty is still unknown, Hedberg may be pressed into action even more.

Ilya Kovalchuk has been a bust.

I know it's early, both in season and contract. Four goals and one assist in November. Really? Are you joking? That is a major problem. In a season with many pitfalls he has been the biggest. This start has made the Devils the laughingstock of the league. The Devs may have the last laugh in the end, but it may not come this year.

The road power play stinks.

One goal in 13 road games. It's hard to win when you waste power-play chances on the road. That has to change if the Devils have any shot.

Jason Arnott wasn't bad.

Arnott looked like a bust early on. But five goals in November has been encouraging. With the injuries and Kovalchuk in this fog, Arnott needs to keep it going for the Devils to stay afloat.

W2W4: Flames vs. Devils

November, 24, 2010
The Devils try to build off their best win of the season following Monday's beatdown of the Washington Capitals when the Calgary Flames skate into Prudential Center. Here are three factors to focus on before your Thanksgiving feast.

Welcome back, Brent!
Wednesday marks the first time Devils coaching defector Brent Sutter has returned to New Jersey since ditching the team for Calgary in the summer of 2009. (To be fair, he wanted to be closer to his family, but I'm not sure that's how the Devils' faithful will see it.) Sutter has not been a happy camper lately, given his struggling team (2-8-1 after six Ws in the first nine games). After Monday's loss to the Rangers, the door to the Flames locker room remained closed to the media for a good long while as the staff met with the players.

When asked about his concern over the fan reaction in his return to Jersey, Sutter told the media (via Tom Gulitti): "It’s irrelevant to me," he said. "I don’t get caught up in that because people don’t know. People didn’t know my situation. People didn’t know the discussions that Lou (Lamoriello) and I had leading into me coming here in the first place." I'm sure Devils fans will factor in that point when they greet Sutter Wednesday night.

Tenacious Tedenby
The Swede has been sensational since getting the call to the big club. In every game he's played it, particularly Monday vs. the Caps, he's been a spark plug. With Zach Parise sidelined it has seemed, to me anyway, that Tedenby has been the fastest player on the ice for the Devils. Monday he used that quickness to spark the Devs' struggling offense and earn a penalty shot, which he converted. The Flames play a bruising style of defense, but their blueliners aren't the fleetest of foot. It will be interesting to see how Tedenby both deals with the physical aspect and whether he can use his speed to his advantage.

A Little D Will Do Ya
The Flames don't feature a ton of solid scorers aside from Jarome Iginla, so I'll be curious to see how well they can bottle up Calgary after blanking Alex Ovechkin and the Caps. The Flames love to get the puck deep and use their physical game to pin it in the offensive zone. The Devils will need to possess the puck and swiftly move it out of their zone before Iginla and Co. can start their cycles. Monday night, the Flames featured a few stretches at the end of the first period and end of the third period when the Rangers simply could not get the puck off of Calgary's sticks.

Devils rookie Mattias Tedenby makes his presence known

November, 23, 2010

Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images
Mattias Tedenby puts the puck past the Capital's Braden Holtby for a penalty shot goal at the Prudential Center

NEWARK, N.J. -- In just two weeks time, Mattias Tedenby’s life has changed faster than he can skate.

Ever since his debut on Nov. 10, the 20-year-old has been living out of a West Orange hotel room 15 minutes from the Prudential Center, thousands of miles away from his parents and his girlfriend. He’s also had to adjust to a more controlled style of hockey than he’s been accustomed to while growing up and playing in his native Sweden.

But the 20-year-old winger, who represents a ray of hope for a Devils team in need of wins, has taken it all in stride. After all, ever since the Devils called him up, Tedenby has been fulfilling a childhood dream he had when he was six.

“It was my goal,” Tedenby said in his best broken english. “Ever since I was a kid. My father [Robert] played hockey in the Swedish Elite League so I grew up going to practices and games and wanting to do what he did.”

To his teammates -- especially his veteran linemates, Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias -- he is still a kid. A kid who possesses all the talent in the world. And that talent was on display Monday night as the rookie scored his third goal of the season on a penalty shot and added an assist as the Devils routed the league’s top team, the Washington Capitals, 5-0.

“He’s a spark plug,” Devils head coach John MacLean said. “He’s confident when he has the puck. He enjoys playing. It’s a learning process with him as far as the overall game. But I like his energy right now, he’s done a really good job.”

Tedenby’s energy -- and speed -- was the reason MacLean decided to put him alongside Arnott and Elias, a pair of Devils playoff legends. And the three have flourished playing together ever since. In fact, they combined for four goals and two assists in New Jersey’s thrashing of Washington.

“He uses his speed well and it adds another dimension to our line,” Arnott said of Tedenby. “He just wants to go, go, go all the time. He’s improved every game. And that’s a great sign. He’s shown more confidence to drive to the net, and he’s not afraid to get in there.”

Tedenby, the Devils’ first-round pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, is generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds. Maybe it’s because he plays that tall, making up for his lack of size by playing with heart and determination.

But despite his stature -- he looks about 5-foot-5, maybe 5-foot-7 and claimed he weighted 172 pounds -- Tedenby overcame the odds, persevered through juniors and made it.

“A lot of people told me I was too small to play at every level I played at,” Tedenby said. “But I don’t care what everyone says.”

He may now that everyone is calling him a star in the making. Still, for that to happen, he’s going have to continue to learn and develop his game.

“For him it’s playing in a smaller rink and not getting lost out there, going all over,” MacLean said. “You’ve still got to play positional hockey. And he’s been conscious of that. He’s a good kid, willing to learn. Sometimes we want him to slow it down a bit, but at the same time you don’t want to slow him down too much. He’s exciting at times.”

Tedenby gave fans a glimpse of what they can expect for years to come when he skated in, deked and beat Capitals goaltender Braden Holty with a well-placed backhander after being awarded a penalty shot with 1 minute, 46 seconds left in the first period. The goal gave the Devils a 3-0 lead.

“That’s my move,” Tedenby said of his patented forehand to backhand deke. “But I can mix it up a bit.”

Given his myriad of moves, it’s hard to fathom that Tedenby didn’t make the team out of training camp. But with the injuries -- and losses -- piling up, he was given a chance.

And so far, he’s made the most of it.

“It’s been fun playing with him,” Arnott said. “He certainly keeps our legs going, that’s for sure.”

Devs snag first regulation home W

November, 23, 2010

Recap | Box score

For the first time this season the New Jersey Devils dominated an opponent from start to finish, mopping the ice with the league-leading Washington Capitals 5-0 at Prudential Center on Monday night.

The sprightly play of rookie Mattias Tedenby -- who finished with two points, including a penalty-shot goal -- powered the attack for most of the night, and G Johan Hedberg was sensational at the other end of the ice for the Devils.

And that mentions nothing of the sterling performance turned in by a much-maligned Devils defense. Colin White and Henrik Tallinder combined with the forward line of David Clarkson, Travis Zajac and Brian Rolston to curb the Caps’ top trio of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Semin, one of the most lethal in the league.

Here’s a look at the aftermath of what has to be a shot-in-the-arm win in Newark.

Morning Links

W2W4: Oilers vs. Devils

November, 12, 2010
There is such a thing as a must-win game in November. And for the foundering New Jersey Devils, tonight's contest against the Edmonton Oilers is exactly that.

If the Devils can't upend the upstart Oilers, who lost their previous two games to the Carolina Hurricanes and Detroit Red Wings by a combined score of 13-3, it's becomes entirely and instantly rational to wonder which NHL teams New Jersey can beat. Here are three keys to watch for in tonight's battle for the league basement.

Consistent Scoring

The Devils put up four goals against Buffalo Wednesday, their second highest total of the season. Tonight they'll face the NHL's worst defensive team, with the porous Oilers allowing a whopping 3.7 goals per game. Jamie Langenbrunner, who scored Wednesday, will sit out tonight and Alexander Vasyunov will join Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk on the top line. But if Mattias Tedenby can again spark the second line, you have to like New Jersey's chances to break out tonight. Especially considering the returns of ...

Welcome back!

With Martin Brodeur and Brian Rolston in the lineup, the Devils get two big pieces back from injury and should enjoy a little confidence boost as a result. Johan Hedberg hadn't exactly been in top form while Brodeur was out. Add in the veteran boost on the blue line the Devs got with the return of Anton Volchenkov two games back and this should be the best defense New Jersey has enjoyed since the season opener ... not that it looked that great against the Dallas Stars, but still ..

What if ...

If the Devils lose tonight, something has to give, right? I mean, I'm no NHL GM, but if you can't beat the league's (other) worst team in the middle of a five-game road trip, how can you expect to succeed during the rest of your schedule without some tinkering? And get a load of the upcoming schedule: at Boston (No. 3 in goals allowed per game), at Toronto (okay, that one's not so threatening), at St. Louis (tied for No. 1 in goals allowed per game) and then home vs. the Caps (No. 1 in goals for per game with 3.56).

I'm not sure what would change, but a loss tonight would easily mark the low point in an abysmal early season. If you legitimately believe that this roster, as it exists right now, is capable of making the playoffs, you have to win this game. Period.

Poor D, Kovy flub doom Devils

November, 11, 2010
One point is better than nothing, but given the Devils’ slow start to the season the shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres Wednesday night feels rather disappointing.

Game Story | Box Score

On the positive side, the vets stepped up (two goals by Jason Arnott and another by Jamie Langenbrunner) and a fresh face made a solid impact (Mattias Tedenby earned his first NHL point with an assist on Arnott’s first goal). Still it wasn’t enough to earn a badly needed win.

The Devils enjoyed a 4-3 lead in the third period when everyone on the ice decided to stare at the puck-carrier behind Johan Hedberg’s crease and leave Tyler Ennis all alone on the doorstep for the slam dunk tying goal.

The end of the shootout poured about a gallon of salt into the Devils’ sizeable early-season wounds, as Ilya Kovalchuk flubbed Jersey’s final attempt to tie it without even mustering a shot. Instead the puck trickled off his stick as he skated in on back-up netminder Jhonas Enroth. If nothing else it was a tidy metaphor for the Devils’ struggles to this point.

Morning Links

W2W4: Sabres vs. Devils

November, 10, 2010
If not now, when? It's time for the Devils to breakout and the woebegone Buffalo Sabres present a tempting target to take down Wednesday night.

Both teams sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, with the loser entitled to the cellar. Not exactly the kind of start fans in Buffalo and New Jersey expected from the squads that finished second (N.J.) and third (Buffalo) in the conference last season. Here are three keys to watch when these teams battle for the basement/redemption.

Battle of the Backups
Both Martin Brodeur and Ryan Miller will sit out the contest, meaning Johan Hedberg will start again for New Jersey and Jhonas Enroth gets the nod for Buffalo. Hedberg hasn't been sensational in limited action with a GAA over 5, but the Sabres have struggled to put the puck in the net this season, averaging just 2.4 a game. Of course, that number dwarfs the Devils' 1.67 figure, but still it's a little bit of a break for a beleaguered Jersey team.

Countering that good karma is the fact that Hedberg allowed four goals to the Sabres before getting yanked in the second period during his first start of the season.

Enroth earned his first NHL win Saturday when the Sabres topped the skidding Maple Leafs in OT.

Welcome to the Show
As Tom Gulitti points out, top prospect Mattias Tedenby will become the eighth Devil to make his NHL debut this season. Hockey's Future lists Tedenby as the best of the bunch, and will provide some speed on a line with Patrik Elias and Jason Arnott Wednesday. In fact, his HF profile labels Tedenby the most exciting Devils prospect since Zach Parise. Maybe he'll be able to help ease the loss of the fallen leading scorer.

Shoring the Blue Line
With Colin White and Anton Volchenkov in the lineup, Wednesday will mark the first time since Oct. 13 New Jersey hasn't dressed three rookie defensemen. The Devils have allowed 3.20 goals per game this season, a big factor in their wretched early play, but the D has been extremely green to this point. The position is challenging for any rookie to learn, and to try and pick up the nuances under the pressure of a poor start and when the forwards can't keep the puck deep in the opposing zone, well, it's even harder. Expect things to tighten up with the added experience.

Lamoriello speaks (sorta) on coming moves

October, 5, 2010
The Devils are another day closer to their day of roster reckoning, and even as Lou Lamoriello addressed the topic with the media yesterday, he is still silent as to the team’s ultimate intentions.

According to Tom Gulitti’s Fire and Ice blog, the Devils GM did not answer questions yesterday as to whether ownership was comfortable with paying significant money to an NHL veteran in order to keep them in the AHL. He likewise declined to say if he had asked any of his players to waive their no-trade or no-movement clauses.

Lamoriello did speak on the weight of the decisions ahead, and the factors that make such choices particularly hard.
“First of all, you know the respect I have for the players and their families,” Lamoriello said. “It’s a combination of not only the player, but his personal life. Anyone who is not affected by that shouldn’t be in this business. And the day that it doesn’t bother you when you have to make those decisions you should get out on your own. But you also have a responsibility and we all know what those responsibilities are. Tough decisions have to be made and, unfortunately, they’re not going to be liked by everybody. But (they’re never made) without the sensitivity what it does to families.”

It’s expected, though not certain, that D Bryce Salvador will join Anssi Salmella and start the season on long term injured reserve, allowing the Devils a cap overage in the amount of the average yearly salaries of those two players (roughly $3.5 million). That leaves the Devils shorthanded in the personnel department however, with just 11 forwards for Friday's opener. While a roster of that size could buy the team some time, it seems unlikely that’s a workable solution over the 82-game, injury-filled grind of an NHL season.

It seems more likely that someone on the current roster will be either waived or traded, and one or more of the several players sent down yesterday (Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson among them) will be recalled before the start of the season.

Morning Links

Kovy to 'debut' as Devils battle Rangers

September, 23, 2010
The Devils come to the Garden to open the Rangers' preseason tonight. With the game airing at 7 p.m. ET on MSG-Plus, here are five factors to keep your eye on.

The Money Line
Apt, no? Ilya Kovalchuk is swimming in it. Zach Parise is playing for more of it with a new contract. Travis Zajac may have to be traded in desperation because the Devils lack cap space. If, as expected, they retain Zajac and this line plays to its vast potential, then the troublesome investment in Kovalchuk will have paid off handsomely. Tonight is expected to be their first test together, after Tom Gulitti reported the trio will suit up at MSG.

Tedenby’s time to shine
The Devils’ top prospect, Mattias Tedenby, didn’t suit up Tuesday, which likely means he’ll make his preseason debut at the Garden tonight. If New Jersey's top two lines hold, it appears Tedenby is battling for a role on the third line. How he handles himself in the physical game could tell more about his future than his skill with the puck.

It’s an A-Bomb, from Ur-Bom!
Like his fellow rookie Jacob Josefson, Devils D Alexander Urbom impressed Tuesday night in Philly. Though he may not get a sweater tonight, a second viewing in short order could bode very well for Urbom’s roster chances. A solid showing tonight could bode even better.

The Forward Formerly Known as MZA
Mats Zuccarello mercifully shortened his last name (dropping Aasen, much to the delight of NHL jersey makers), and he can continue to shorten his odds of making the Ranger roster with a strong showing tonight. Seeing how he handles himself on the smaller ice against a sound defensive team like the Devils should be a good indicator as to whether last season’s Swedish league MVP is NHL-ready. The New York Times has more on the Norwegian Hobbit Wizard.

Stepan’s time to step up
Rangers rookie Derek Stepan struggled centering the top line in yesterday’s scrimmage, according to the Post's Larry Brooks, but he still may have the most talent of any pivot in camp. Head coach John Tortorella is expected to try some different players in the top C spot throughout the night. It will be interesting to see if Stepan -- or anyone else -- can seize the opportunity.

While the Devils’ lineup is still up in the air, here’s the roster the Rangers will put on the ice, via the Post:

Defense: Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Michal Rozsival, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Sauer, Alexei Semenov

Forwards: Marian Gaborik, Alex Frolov, Brandon Dubinsky, Erik Christensen, Brandon Prust, Brian Boyle, Tim Kennedy, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, Derek Boogaard, Dale Weise, Ruslan Fedotenko

Goalies: Martin Biron, Chad Johnson

Morning Links


Top five training camp questions

September, 17, 2010
The 2010-11 season has arrived. This weekend marks the opening of training camp for all three New York area teams and the end to the summer speculation hockeyheads have leaned on in lieu of on-ice action. Starting this weekend, we’ll finally get some answers to some key questions. Here are the top five facing the Rangers, Devils and Islanders as the curtain rises.


Who will be the Rangers’ first-line center?
In speaking to the media, head coach John Tortorella said that the only jobs that had been decided beyond King Henrik's continued reign in the crease were the two top-line wingers, Marian Gaborik and Alexander Frolov. Who acts as their pivot is still up for grabs and fantasy hockey players especially are eager to find out.
One candidate it Erik Christensen. The 26-year-old, acquired last year from Anaheim, finished the season strong with 2 goals and 6 assists in his last six games. However, he posted just 26 points in total, not exactly the type of production you expect from a top-liner. Brandon Dubinsky and Vinny Prospal also spent time skating with Gaborik last season, and veteran Todd White could be in the conversation as well.

Will there be new blood?
Tortorella also noted that Derek Stepan, Evgeny Grachev and Ryan McDonagh will get long looks this training camp. Stepan and Grachev could be welcome additions to a roster that has struggled to score. McDonagh’s task is slightly tougher given the shortage of blue-line openings, but he’s been impressive in rookie camp and at the Traverse City prospect tournament.

How long will Wade Redden last?
Tortorella says it’s not automatic that Redden will be banished to the minors. Is he just trying to say the right thing and do right by a veteran player? Or does Redden really have a shot?
It seems like he’s a dead man walking (skating?) since his play for the Blueshirts has been sub-par and sinking his salary-cap hit in the minors solves the Rangers’ money problems. If Redden sticks on the Rangers roster -- and let’s be clear, that seems to be a gigantic IF at this point -- there will be some massive shakeups to compensate and clear the needed $4 million-plus to get below the cap.

Who rounds out the blueline?
We hit on this yesterday. Marc Staal, Daniel Girardi, Michal Rozsival and Michael Del Zotto appear to be locks for the top four spots. That leaves two active spots, with the team possibly carrying a seventh defenseman. Steve Eminger, Matt Gilroy, rookie Ryan McDonagh, AHL veteran Mike Sauer and invitees Garnet Exelby and Alexei Semenov will duke it out for those final slots.

How fast can Mats Zuccarello-Aasen adjust?
It’s almost a cliché. Every time a European player makes the jump to North America you’ll see some skepticism about how well he can adjust to this continent’s smaller ice surfaces. Yeah, the question’s warn out, but it wouldn’t be asked it if wasn’t true. Most European players play a finesse game. On a smaller sheet, with guys like Zdeno Chara defending the lanes, there’s less room to maneuver. If last season’s scoring leader in Sweden can adapt early, he could be a very welcome weapon.


Is Patrik Elias really going to play LW?
New head coach John MacLean told the media that Elias will enter camp as a left wing. Come again?
That likely puts him on the third line and leaves us wondering who skates with top LWs Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise on the other two lines. Elias has played some center in the past, but with MacLean's statement it seems Travis Zajac and Jason Arnott will center the top two scoring lines. Having a star like Elias on the third line will give the Devils some tremendous depth, in theory, but it will be interesting to see if his style can synch up with a grind line.

Which prospects will make the team?
LW (there’s that position again!) Mattias Tedenby is the top prospect, but don’t discount C Jacob Josefson. The Devils could use some depth down the middle since Arnott’s not exactly a spring chicken and if push comes to stomach punch, GM Lou Lamoriello may need to trade Zajac out of desperation in order to get below the salary cap at the start of the season. Which brings us to …

Who’s going?
Until something breaks, Dainius Zubrus and Bryce Salvador are going to be skating like guillotines in tow. They’re the owners of the biggest contracts that don’t include no-movement clauses. Of course, those big contracts also make them rather unpalatable to other teams, so trading them will be a tall order. One way or the other the Devils need to get below the cap ceiling, which means some veteran players are heading out the door. Until they do, there will be some dark clouds hovering over Prudential Center.

Can Kovalchuk’s style mesh with the Devils?

After acquiring Kovalchuk from the Devils, the team’s playing style started to skew from a workman-like dump-and-chase to a more skill-based game. Grinding is what the Devils do best. Streaking down the ice and scoring is what Kovalchuk does best. Can the two exist in harmony?

Can Kovalchuk stand the spotlight?
The single biggest topic this summer revolved around Kovalchuk’s free agency and contract. He’s going to be under scrutiny from the media in camp and early in the season. How well will he handle it?


Who wins the blueline battle?
Mark Streit and James Wisniewski look like they’ll anchor this unit with a lot of other fairly proven names (Jack Hillen, Mark Eaton) also in the picture. I could go on, but Lighthouse Hockey’s already shined a very nice spotlight on the coming competition.

Will the kids stick around?
There’s nothing that excites a rebuilding franchise like new blood and the Islanders have some very choice prospects. But will they make their mark in 2010-11?
Nino Niederreiter, Kirill Kabanov, Calvin de Haan and Travis Hamonic comprise four of the Isles’ top eight prospects according to Hockey’s Future.
It’s expected that El Nino will make the strongest run to remain on the roster, but there’s no shortage of top talent in this system. Some veterans will be pushed hard to keep their spots.

Can Kabanov behave?
I kind of hate to ask this one, since I’d prefer to give an 18-year-old the benefit of the doubt. However, Kabanov keeps making his enigmatic behavior a big issue.
If he can keep in line for the duration of camp, that will go a long way towards dispelling the notion that he’s a headache not worth dealing with -- the same perception that allowed someone of his elite talent to slip to the third round of the draft.

Will Rick DiPietro be up to full speed?
The netminder says he feels good and he’s ready to go this season, but staying healthy has never been the former top pick’s strong suit. Even if he’s not up to par, it’s unlikely the Isles make a move to acquire another goalie, but there are still some veteran options (Jose Theodore) out there should DiPietro again find himself sidelined, with some prospects waiting in the wings as well.

Is there a big year coming from John Tavares?
You can’t usually tell much in the preseason, but a lot of eyes will be on him to see if he can take that next step. Steven Stamkos set the bar (impossibly?) high with his 51-goal campaign in his sophomore season. Tavares may well have the ability to match that feat, but does he have the supporting cast? The Lightning may not be the team they once were, but Stamkos is still surrounded with a cast of stars in Tampa. The Isles aren’t without talent, but it’s just not the same setting for Tavares.
For what it’s worth, Tavares is ranked No. 54 in ESPN’s fantasy projections, with 30 goals and 64 points.

Got questions of your own? Post them in the comment section below and we’ll check them out as the preseason unfolds.

Devils roster reform looms as rooks report

September, 13, 2010
We all know the Devils’ summer was defined by Ilya Kovalchuk, but how much of next season will be? A New York Post preview article raises an interesting point about how Kovalchuk’s acquisition altered the team’s playing style last season -- and it wasn’t for the better, according to Mark Everson:
“Previously, the team prospered by dumping the puck from the red line when confronted by defenses, winning races and outbumping opponents.

“Suddenly, star players were intent on carrying the puck across the blue line, making passing plays and keeping possession.

“It didn't work then, was never solved, and now, it's up to MacLean to get these two distinct philosophies playing the same way, reacting similarly to the same keys. Good luck.”

The article goes on to list some prospects with a shot to stick on the Devils’ roster this season. Among them lie jewels like Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby, as well as the likes of Alexander Urbom, Tyler Eckford, Matt Corrente, Adam Henrique, Nick Palmeri and Vladimir Zharkov.

In other roster news, a previous Post article puts Dainius Zubrus on the record as not wanting to leave New Jersey. That reluctance probably means he won’t be willing to sit out the NHL season and play in Europe, a move that could alleviate his salary cap hit ($3.4 million) the same way the Blackhawks buried the contract of G Cristobal Huet.

Morning Links

Devils roster purge rumors swirl

September, 9, 2010
As the Devils try to clear cap space, The Post sites rumblings that GM Lou Lamoriello is hesitant to part with D Bryce Salvador, thought to be one of the most likely players to leave. The article also adds former first-round pick Matt Corrente to the speculation (likely as an incentive for teams to take on a bad contract) and sites the Toronto Maple Leafs as an oft-mentioned, but unlikely, trading partner.

Meanwhile, In Lou We Trust is already cleaning out Salvador’s locker and says the final cap casualty will come down to Dainius Zubrus and Brian Rolston, offering an interesting head-to-head comparison along the way.

Morning Links