NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils received a pleasant surprise at their morning skate Friday in preparation for their game with the winless Washington Capitals at Prudential Center.
Adam Henrique, who is recovering from Nov. 29 surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb, joined his teammates for the first time on the ice since suffering the injury. Though Henrique remains seven to 10 days away from returning to the lineup, he said it was nice to be skating with his teammates again.
"It's a big morale boost for me just to be around the guys," Henrique said. "I think a lot of other guys would say the same thing when they're hurt. It's tough watching games."
Devils coach Peter DeBoer doesn't expect Henrique to make the trip with the team to play the Montreal Canadiens (Sunday) and Boston Bruins (Tuesday). The 2012 Calder Trophy finalist said he's still not shooting at full strength, something he'll need to do before participating in a regular-season contest.
Still, Henrique is excited that the Devils (2-0-0) have opened the season with two successive victories.
"It's great to see that … I felt the guys played a solid game throughout [against the New York Islanders on Saturday]," he said. "There's always areas to improve and it was a big win against Philadelphia [on Tuesday]; those are always huge games. The guys look good and with the shortened season you need a good start and push, and hopefully by the time I get back I can help."
Henrique said he's not going to pinpoint a certain game on the schedule to make his return; rather, he'll take it day by day.
"I need to get the strength in there for shooting and handling the puck on the ice," he said. "It's different from going to skating with no pucks to handling the puck and then getting back to practice with the guys. We're on the right track and on schedule to where we've expected things to be."
Henrique skated with fourth-liners Krystofer Barch, who will make his Devils' debut against the Capitals, and Cam Janssen, who will be a healthy scratch.
Henrique was injured while playing for the Devils' American Hockey League affiliate in Albany on Nov. 25 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He resumed skating last Wednesday, but this was his first time on the ice with the team.
"It was great to see him back," DeBoer said. "He's a big part of our team and our lineup. It just allows you, assuming you stay healthy, to put guys in better positions for success."
DeBoer will make a few line adjustments against the Capitals. Mattias Tedenby will move up to left wing on the top line with Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk, while Dainius Zubrus, who skated with Zajac and Kovalchuk in the first two games, will be with Patrik Elias and David Clarkson.
Barch, a healthy scratch the first two games, will take Janssen’s place on the fourth line with Stefan Matteau and Jacob Josefson. Matteau has moved to the right wing, though, and Barch is skating at left wing.
Barch, who signed with the Devils as an unrestricted free agent last summer, is looking forward to his season debut.
"He's a guy with no exhibition game and I haven't really seen him up close so I want to get him in a game and see what he could do," DeBoer said. "I'm sure he'll bring energy, speed and physicality."
The Devils will be looking to start a season with three straight wins for the first time since 2002-03.
Here's what the Devils lineup should look like against the Capitals:
Mattias Tedenby - Travis Zajac - Ilya Kovalchuk
Dainius Zubrus - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier
Stefan Matteau - Jacob Josefson - Krystofer Barch
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Henrik Tallinder - Anton Volchenkov
Andy Greene - Mark Fayne
Injured: Adam Henrique
Scratched: Adam Larsson, Peter Harrold, Cam Janssen