Sticking in a lineup is a difficult task. That is especially true when you're not a first-round pick and a prospect that doesn't come in with a lot of hype.
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Kevin Stenlund knows that all too well. Stenlund has taken a circular path to the league seeing time in Sweden and the American Hockey League.
After forward Mikko Koivu's retirement, it left a large, Stenlund-sized hole in the lineup and was the exact type of opportunity that a player like him could take advantage of. John Tortorella committed to playing him in a more prominent role beginning Thursday in Chicago.
The early returns were good.
What did he do in his first game after Koivu's retirement? Stenlund scored one goal (the game-winner) and supplied an assist for a total of two points, and did so in only 13:51 of ice time; 1:39 of that time was also on the power play where, he's seeing time on the second unit.
In newcomer and solid teammate fashion, Stenlund deflected when asked about his two-point game.
"It's a big confidence boost for me," said Stenlund. "I'm just happy with doing what it takes for a great team win."
On top of it all, Stenlund also owned the shot share when he was on the ice. That may not seem like a big deal, but this Blue Jackets team has been in the doldrums in that department. In this game against the Blackhawks, 66% of the attempted shots were in Stenlund's favor.
His assist came on the power play, an area where Columbus has struggled mightily. Despite two power-play goals on the evening, Stenlund acknowledged that they have a ways to go to get to more consistent production on the power play.
"We gotta obviously be a little bit better," said Stenlund on the power play against the Blackhawks. "But two goals... that's good, and we need to be able to build on that."
It hasn't taken long for the Swedish forward to make his mark, and if he keeps playing like this, he won't only be a mainstay. He will be a part of their long-term plans as well.
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