Stefan Matteau has sometimes been the odd man out for the Devils during this young season.
The rookie left wing, who turned 19 on Feb. 23, has been a healthy scratch for seven of New Jersey's 17 games. But he's seen his potential playing time increased substantially of late, after Ryan Carter went down with a head injury on Feb. 18 against the Ottawa Senators.
Now, with Carter out indefinitely, Matteau is getting an opportunity to showcase his skills again. And the chance to play with Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier on a line that has been clutch for the Devils beginning with last year's playoffs is exciting for the young forward.
"They're two great players, two high-energy players," Matteau said about his new linemates.
Head coach Pete DeBoer praised the youngster's ability and sounded confident that Matteau would fit in well on the vital third line.
“I think he has the ability and the tools to be a top six forward and complement some of the high-skill guys in the world that play in those top sixes around the league. He can skate with them,” DeBoer said.
Matteau has made the most of his time on the ice thus far, registering two points in 10 games played, logging 9:02 ice time per game. He's also tied for ninth in the NHL among rookies with an impressive plus-3 rating.
"He's a great kid, I had chills," Martin Brodeur said after the win over Pittsburgh, which allowed New Jersey to take sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division.
"I look at the guys around the league that do that and contribute offensively—the Hartnells, the Clarksons, the Ryan Malones. I’m sure I’m leaving guys off, but that’s the type of player that I think he has the capability of being.”
Despite the lofty parallels drawn by his coach, Matteau is approaching his latest opportunity with the wisdom of a humble veteran.
"I'm back in the lineup, I'm just going to try to stay and work as hard as I can. I've been working hard in practice, skating well, and I just have to keep working hard."