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Devils duo not playing like North American novices

by Mike G. Morreale
It's only a matter of time before New Jersey Devils coach John MacLean finds himself reveling in the "Swede" smell of success.

While MacLean would prefer to take the wait-and-see approach, former first-round picks Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby are making it very difficult.

Not surprisingly, the young Swedes sit side-by-side in the New Jersey dressing room and watching them interact has become as entertaining as witnessing their incredible skill set on the ice. Even as reporters are asking questions, they'll glance at one another, smile and speak in Swedish before serving up a response. Only one season removed from playing in the Swedish Elite League -- Josefson with Djurgardens and Tedenby with HV 71 Jonkoping -- the duo appears right at home in New Jersey.

"I think it's been good so far," Josefson told "I don't feel like I want to go back to Sweden. I like it here a lot. It's very good."

As a center, Josefson may have the inside track on nailing down a roster spot right out of training camp. Not only because the Devils are in need of fresh legs down the middle of the ice, but because he's been that impressive.

"I think Josefson has been playing beyond his years as far as his maturity out there," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "The way he handles the pace of the game and play at that level he wants to, he can control things pretty well."

Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello traded up three spots to select the 6-foot, 190-pound Josefson with the 20th pick of the 2009 Entry Draft. He signed a three-year, entry-level contract in May after scoring  8 goals, 20 points and 20 penalty minutes in 43 regular-season games with Djurgardens.

Despite the depth the Devils possess on the wing, Langenbrunner also feels Tedenby shouldn't be ruled out. The 5-foot-10, 176-pounder, selected 24th by the Devils in 2008, also signed a three-year, entry-level contract in May. He completed his second season with HV 71 with 12 goals and 19 points in 44 games. He's already being touted as one of the organization's best skaters.

"He's a very high-energy guy, extremely gifted with the puck," Langenbrunner said. "You can tell he's going to be a dynamic talent."

MacLean hasn't seen much of a letdown in either player, even though the pace of the game has increased with each preseason contest.

"As with anything, as training camp moves along you want to see how the guys adjust to the speed of the game, and so far, Josefson and Tedenby have looked good," MacLean said.

It doesn't hurt that both players have their share of countrymen sharing the same dressing room -- goalie Johan Hedberg and defensemen Henrik Tallinder and Alexander Urbom.

"It's always helpful as a rookie to have guys in there who are from the same country," MacLean said. "To have Urbom and Tallinder in there is very helpful in training camp, because if you have a question that you might be shy about asking someone else, you can ask it a little more comfortably in your own language. I think that's been a plus for them."

In a 3-2 exhibition win against the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday, Josefson centered the team's third line, skating between Dainius Zubrus and David Clarkson. He logged 16:39 of ice time on 19 shifts and, though pointless, did register two hits. Tedenby, who notched the primary assist on Ilya Kovalchuk's game-winner with 2:19 remaining in the third period, earned 15:06 of ice time, playing with center Jason Arnott and Langenbrunner.

"Tedenby had a good game … he skated well with speed," Devils forward Travis Zajac said. "He's able to get behind their defense and use that speed and that's his game. His game is quickness and making plays and you really notice him out there."

While Tedenby knows nothing will be handed to him, he also realizes so long as he plays the way he's capable, he has a shot.

"I really don't want to think too far ahead," Tedenby said. "I take it game by game and practice by practice. I just live for right now. When training camp started, I felt I did so-so, but I've been getting better. This is a good experience for me and my goal is to make this team."

Tedenby said his adjustment to North American hockey has gone relatively smooth, and the opportunity to watch one of the game's finest in Zach Parise, every day, has been extremely beneficial.

"Parise is a good guy to look at for me," he said. "He isn't that big, either, like me. So I try to look at him and try to do what he does … sometimes. I like watching (Patrik) Elias, too."

The fact MacLean has had Josefson and Tedenby working with different linemates throughout training camp isn't by chance.

"You want to put guys in good positions to succeed," MacLean said. "When we had them with veterans against Philadelphia, that's a good chance for them to learn and become aware of different situations and how to react. They both got a lot of minutes and were thrown right into the fire against Philadelphia. That's how you get experience and earn that opportunity to play."

At the rate Josefson and Tedenby are progressing, that opportunity isn't too far down the road.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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