When Montreal Canadiens prospect Mattias Norlinder returned from his injury, Modo head coach Björn Hellkvist gave his defender a few minutes of ice time, but the future intentions were clear as Mattias Norlinder got a shift on the second power play unit.
It certainly looked as though Hellkvist wanted to show confidence in Norlinder when he put the player out on the ice for a power play. Norlinder has another view on the whole situation.
“The power play wasn’t working against Västervik so I just think he wanted to shake up the lines a bit, I really didn’t know what I was doing out there. I don’t think I performed at the level I wanted,” Norlinder said.
In his second game back, and against local rivals Björklöven, Norlinder was over the 10 minute mark and he got to play in the overtime period when the game was on the line. Unfortunately for Norlinder, he was on the ice for Björklöven’s winning goal, not due to a mistake from the young defenceman as his teammate lost the puck at the offensive blue that created a winning counter attack.
“We weren’t really worried about the start of the season, Västervik was the first game and there is always a bit of tension and nerves involved. The second game, as you say, was against a local team in their arena, and a team that is projected to be a top team in the league,” he said. “For me personally it felt better as I got to play more, it’s always easier to play when you play more. You get smarter, you shut down your gaps and you find better plays much easier when you play more. It benefitted me and my confidence,” said Norlinder who is already looking forward to Friday’s game against Södertälje.
With Modo having lost two games, it was important to win the the third and not fall too far off the pace of the top teams as Modo is looking to earn the promotion to Sweden’s top league, the SHL. Modo faced Mora, who were relegated last season, at home Wednesday night and Modo and especially Norlinder came to play. In the end Modo won the game convincingly and the Canadiens prospect scored two goals.
The first goal was a beauty as the defender found himself on the wing and deked the goalie before letting the puck go into an empty net.
”I have recovered fully from the scaphoid fracture thats not a problem, however mentally you keep thinking about it,” he said. “I spent 14-15 weeks with a [cast] and you don’t want that to happen once more, so subconsciously it’s there. It will get better every game, you get more confidence and you realize everything works as normal. Actually the one time I worry the most is when is shoot, but with the confidence from last game I might shoot more now.”
If shooting doesn’t work Norlinder certainly has the skill to score in other ways:
“It goes so fast you really don’t think, something pops up in your mind and you do it, really that is a spur of the moment thing. I really didn’t think about it,” he said. Norlinder is a player who would rather praise his teammates than promote himself, however he does concede that he would enjoy a goal like that if he was a spectator.
When it comes to future usage Hellkvist had told the defender he would take it slow and let Norlinder adjust to the pace, but having played 15 minutes in his third game back it seems Norlinder is on the right track to finish the season as one of the most trusted defenders on the team. He wants to play during the penalty kill but as Modo rolls two pairs he isn’t sure if or when that will happen.
“You benefit from playing on the [penalty kill] in your regular game too, you learn so much defensively so I hope to get into that usage as well.”
Norlinder understands that curious Canadiens fans can’t sign up to see him play in HockeyAllsvenskan, but he is still uncertain about the World Junior Championships.
“It’s not something that I think of at the moment. I haven’t heard from Swedish coach Tomas Montén since the last camp. There is another tournament coming up in November but right now my focus is on Modo and getting back into game speed, but of course you want to play in the national team if you get selected.”