NEWS

Matteau returns to lineup vs. Tampa Bay

Thursday, 02.7.2013 / 1:41 PM ET / News
NHL.com
X
Share with your Friends


Matteau returns to lineup vs. Tampa Bay


 
NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils rookie forward Stefan Matteau is set to make his sixth appearance with the team on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Prudential Center, meaning his entry-level contract would kick in.

Devils coach Peter DeBoer had Matteau skating on left wing alongside center Travis Zajac and right wing Ilya Kovalchuk during the team's morning skate on Thursday in the absence of injured Dainius Zubrus (upper body).

"We have Zubrus out [Thursday] and [Matteau] is the next left wing available to us and the most ready to play," DeBoer said after practice. "He'll go in."

If the Devils opted to send Matteau back to his junior team, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior League, the organization would have saved a year on his entry-level deal.

"From day one, [Devils general manager] Lou [Lamoriello] said contract status wouldn't stand in the way if he thought Stef would help us," DeBoer said. "He's got to go do his thing. I don't think by us playing him this game it was a lifetime contract or a guarantee that he'd be here for the next 40 games, but it's another opportunity for him to show he's an NHL player.

"We really like a lot of the things he does, and he's got to simplify some areas. He's still learning, but there's a lot there to work with."

A rather subdued Matteau was surrounded by reporters and television cameras following practice.

"It's a big step, but not a guarantee that I'll be here all year … it's one more game and at least one more day," Matteau said. "I don't want to put any expectations on myself and just take it day by day. I've been working hard, but whether or not I stay for good is out of my control and not my decision. I believe I can be here, one day, but I'm just taking it day by day right now."

In New Jersey's opening five games, Matteau didn't record a point, sported a plus-1 rating and has averaged 8:28 in ice time. He did open his last two games on the team's top line with Zajac and Kovalchuk while Adam Henrique was recovering from thumb surgery, but was eventually moved to the fourth unit.

"We'll just tell him to skate and work hard and do the things he's been doing all year," Zajac said. "He's a smart guy and he'll learn. He's going to get better every game."

Zubrus, who has one goal and four points in nine games this season for New Jersey (5-1-3), apparently suffered his injury in a 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday. There is no timetable on his return to the lineup.

"[Zajac and Kovalchuk] are pretty good hockey players," Matteau said with a smile. "They make the game easier. They're the two best players in the world, so it'll be great."

Matteau admits to learning a lot while watching the last four games from above the ice level.

"Being up top you see how simple the game is, but how smart everyone is," he said. "I learned you need to hold on to the puck and protect, and take it to the net. After my fifth game, I was told that Lou [Lamoreillo] wanted me to watch the top guys, see how they play and what they do."

David Clarkson, who leads the Devils with seven goals and 12 points, feels Matteau will only improve.

"He seems like a great kid," Clarkson told NHL.com. "I think this kid is going to have a heck of a career; he's a great player and a big boy who can skate. It'll be a pretty exciting night for him to get that game in and to know that he could be here the full season."

Here are the possible line combinations for the Devils:

Stefan Matteau - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Patrik Elias - Adam Henrique - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Krys Barch - Jacob Josefson - Bobby Butler

Bryce Salvador - Mark Fayne
Anton Volchenkov - Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

Injured: Dainius Zubrus
Scratched: Peter Harrold, Henrik Tallinder

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - NYR 76 48 21 7 231 179 103
2 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
3 x - TBL 78 47 24 7 250 204 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 WSH 77 42 25 10 227 190 94
7 DET 76 40 23 13 221 208 93
8 BOS 77 39 25 13 204 198 91
9 OTT 76 38 26 12 220 204 88
10 FLA 77 35 27 15 192 210 85
11 CBJ 76 37 35 4 210 234 78
12 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
13 NJD 77 31 33 13 170 197 75
14 CAR 76 28 37 11 176 208 67
15 TOR 77 29 42 6 201 245 64
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Henrique 70 16 25 -3 41
M. Cammalleri 63 27 13 3 40
P. Elias 64 11 21 -16 32
S. Gomez 53 7 24 -8 31
S. Bernier 62 13 14 3 27
T. Zajac 69 11 12 -4 23
A. Larsson 59 3 20 3 23
A. Greene 77 3 18 2 21
M. Ryder 47 6 13 -1 19
E. Gelinas 57 6 12 -3 18
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 26 28 9 .927 2.20
K. Kinkaid 5 5 3 .918 2.47