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Devils' Pesonen set to make NHL debut

by Dan Rosen

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils forward Harri Pesonen will make his NHL debut Saturday against the Montreal Canadiens at Prudential Center. Pesonen will skate as the left wing on a line with Patrik Elias and David Clarkson.

The Devils signed Pesonen, 24, last year after the Stanley Cup Final ended. He was playing professionally in his native Finland.

Pesonen, who was called up Tuesday, has 25 points, including 11 goals, in 54 games with the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League.

"Some energy, some fresh legs," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said when asked what he wants to see out of Pesonen. "It's his first NHL game so I think he'll be excited. He's a guy that's played pro hockey over in Europe a little so he's not a 20-year-old rookie coming in; he's a 24-year-old that's played some pro. I'm hoping that that transition is a little bit easier for him."

Devils rookie Stefan Matteau will play for the first time March 9. He has been a healthy scratch for the past three games.

Pesonen and Matteau are playing Saturday because Andrei Loktionov is injured and Krys Barch will be a healthy scratch. DeBoer said Loktionov is day-to-day with an unspecified injury. He was hurt Friday during the 2-1 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

Johan Hedberg will extend his career-long streak for consecutive starts with his 12th in a row Saturday against the Canadiens. Hedberg is 2-0-1 with five goals allowed since he was pulled in a 5-2 loss at the Carolina Hurricanes.

How long Hedberg's streak goes remains up in the air because DeBoer said injured goalie Martin Brodeur (back) skated again Saturday morning and is getting closer to returning.

"He's looking better and I don't think he's too far off," DeBoer said.

Here is the Devils' lineup for the game Saturday night:

Alexei Ponikarovsky - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk

Harri Pesonen - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson

Ryan Carter - Adam Henrique - Steve Bernier

Stefan Matteau - Stephen Gionta - Tom Kostopoulos

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold

Johan Hedberg

Jeff Frazee

Scratched: Krys Barch, Mark Fayne

Injured: Martin Brodeur (back), Dainius Zubrus (left wrist), Andrei Loktionov (undisclosed), Henrik Tallinder (lower body)

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl

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