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NHL dream comes true for Josefson tonight

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Josefson will wear No. 16 for his debut.
Jacob Josefson has dreamt about this for as long as he can remember. A lifetime of hard work and commitment have him making his NHL debut tonight against Colorado at 7 p.m.

“I’m very excited,” said the Devils’ 2009 first-round draft pick. “Since I started to play hockey, that’s been one of my goals. It will be really exciting to play.”

Josefson, 19, started skating when he was two-years-old. When the native of Stockholm, Sweden, was suiting up on a team for the first time, the Devils had just won the first of three Stanley Cups.

Now he'll officially crack an NHL regular-season lineup.

"He had a good training camp, and he’s going to get an opportunity to play," said head coach John MacLean. "I think he’ll do well. He’s a mature young fellow, and I think he’ll succeed at this level."

During camp, Josefson centered veterans Dainius Zubrus and David Clarkson on New Jersey’s third line. He skated with them again this morning.

“They’re really good players and it was really fun to play with them in the exhibition games,” Josefson said. “They’re really helpful out there and try to help with everything. I think that’s good for me as it is my first game.”

MacLean kept Josefson where he’s comfortable, but wasn't worried about his poise.

“He seems to be confident with the puck,” said the coach. “He understands the game really well, he reads the game really well. He’s confident when he gets the puck, he doesn’t throw it away. He sees the play ahead of him and he makes it.”

Josefson possesses all the tools for success.

Said MacLean: “He understands the game well, being sound, positionally good. As he gets familiarized with the speed and the type of play, he adapts very well which is good. I think he should be fine."

The timing worked out just right for Josefson’s family. His mother and father had traveled to New York City after spending a few days with him in Albany.

“The day after they left from Albany, I got called up. It couldn’t have been more perfect,” said Josefson. “They got really lucky. They didn’t come (here) to see me play, they just wanted to see me, and I’m playing here tonight. It’s a bonus for them.”

The game's significance isn’t lost on Zubrus, who debuted as an 18-year-old with the Flyers in 1996.

“I think it’s great,” Zubrus said. “He deserves it. I think he’s a good little player. I’m sure tonight he’s going to remember for the rest of his life, so we have to make it a good one.”

Veterans will offer a positive word of advice, though a rookie’s emotions will still run high.

“It’s tough to say, just enjoy it, be calm,” Zubrus said. “It’s the NHL. It’s something that you dream about for many years. Then to come and play in your first official game, it’s a big deal. Like I said, we have to make sure it’s a good one so it stays in his memory as a good night.”

Zubrus noted even vets aren’t immune from getting pre-game jitters for special occasions like opening night. Getting into the flow of a game can that all disappear.

“The more he plays – the more he gets involved with the play – he’ll probably loosen up,” he said. "Then the game kind of takes over from your head and then you don’t think. If you just sit there and see all these guys playing against you, you’re not really that much into the game, that’s one thing. But if you’re involved, and you’re making plays and getting regular shifts, it kind of goes away.”

Clarkson recalled his first NHL game at Carolina on March 15, 2007.

“I remember being just full of energy and couldn’t wait,” he said. “He’s going to be nervous, but I think also very confident. He plays a confident style. One of the nicest kids you’ll meet off the ice, but when he gets out there he’s got that confidence to carry the puck and make plays. I’m pretty excited to play with him tonight.”

MacLean looking to gain momentum
After going winless in their first three games, the Devils picked up a much-needed victory Wednesday in Buffalo, where Ilya Kovalchuk scored 53 seconds into overtime for a 1-0 triumph. MacLean wants to see his group continue to perform.

“I think we just have to remember how we competed for 60 minutes,” MacLean said. “It wasn’t a mistake-free game, but we worked hard for 60 minutes and stayed with the game plan. That’s what we have to do again tonight.”

After going shorthanded in their last two games, MacLean and the Devils will have 18 skaters tonight. Brian Rolston was placed on long-term injured reserve for sports hernia surgery, and will miss the next four to six weeks. That freed up the salary cap space for the Devils to recall Josefson, forward Tim Sestito and defenseman Matt Corrente from Albany (AHL) on Thursday. Sestito centered Rod Pelley and Adam Mair at today’s morning skate.

The victory in Buffalo has New Jersey looking for its first winning streak.

“Any time you start a season where you haven’t gotten a win in the first three, you want to get a win,” MacLean said. “They all feel the same as we do, that wins are important. Now hopefully we can get on a little bit of a roll.”

Today's morning lines:
Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Ilya Kovalchuk
Patrik Elias-Jason Arnott-Jamie Langenbrunner
Dainius Zubrus-Jacob Josefson-David Clarkson
Rod Pelley-Tim Sestito-Adam Mair

Andy Greene-Henrik Tallinder
Colin White-Matt Taormina
Alexander Urbom-Matt Corrente

Martin Brodeur will start tonight.

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