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Devils' Severson playing tough minutes, producing

by Dan Rosen

NEWARK, N.J. -- Tuesday he got a chance to go head-to-head against Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Two nights later his assignment was to play against Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin.

No one can accuse New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer of hiding 20-year-old rookie defenseman Damon Severson. Then again, DeBoer is smart enough to know that he never had to even think about hiding Severson.

In addition to scoring three goals in his first four NHL games, a feat Severson called surreal and lucky, he has played difficult minutes against the League's two best goal scorers.

Damon Severson
Defense - NJD
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 4
SOG: 15 | +/-: 5
"It was great," Severson said. "Seeing them on TV is one thing, but getting to actually play against them in real life is another thing."

Severson was on the ice for all or part of 16 of Ovechkin's 20 shifts in Washington's 6-2 win against the Devils on Thursday. He was on the ice for 14 of Stamkos' 19 shifts in the Devils' 2-1 win at Tampa Bay on Tuesday.

He actually outscored Ovechkin 2-1 and outshot Ovechkin 8-5. He was even against Stamkos as neither put the puck in the net.

"We've asked him to play some tough minutes against great players," DeBoer said. "We asked him to play against Ovechkin the other night and that could be overwhelming for a veteran defenseman never mind a rookie. He just has a composure about him that it hasn't seemed to bother him yet. We'll just take it day by day here and hope he keeps going."

Severson fared better against Stamkos than he did Ovechkin. He helped keep Stamkos off the score sheet, but he had an even rating against the Capitals despite scoring two goals because he was on the ice for Ovechkin's goal in the first period and Nicklas Backstrom's goal in the third. He also was on the ice for Andre Burakovsky's power-play goal late in the third period.

Ovechkin also knocked Severson to the ice with a hard hit in the first period. Severson didn't like that too much.

"He's a strong guy and I wasn't really expecting it when he knocked me over," Severson said. "He pulled me somehow, I don't know how he got me. I thought it was a little bit of interference, but no big deal now; it's over."

Severson said he relished the challenge of going against Stamkos and Ovechkin this week.

"Obviously the coaches are showing confidence to put me out against those guys, but I want to see how I can do as well," he said. "I'm confident and I believe I can play against those guys and be able to shut them down, be able to do my thing on the ice and not have to worry. Just kind of be second nature to not allow goals-against and play in the offensive end."

Confidence definitely is not an issue for Severson. He said he came into training camp last month with the mindset that he was going to make the team and that's it. He beat out veteran Peter Harrold and has been playing ahead of Adam Larsson, who was the fourth pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.

"As long as I play solid hockey and get better every day I think I'm going to stay up here," Severson said.

That he has scored early in his career has fueled his confidence.

Severson had 61 points in 64 games with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League last season, and then had 18 points in 14 WHL playoff games. Scoring is a big part of his game.

"I try to stick to the same thing I do every game," he said. "Get my shots through, make plays on the power play and 5-on-5. Any chance I can get to create on the offensive side of things and contribute is what I try to do."

Well, that and try to match wits, power and skill against some of the best players in the world.

Severson wears No. 28. You can't miss him in New Jersey now. DeBoer is making sure of it.


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