NEWARK, N.J. --New Jersey Devils rookie center Adam Henrique didn't appear too surprised when asked if he expected to be named one of three finalists for this year's Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year.
But he's certainly honored to be in the mix.
"I was excited," Henrique told the media following practice on Friday. "Obviously, it's a big honor to be nominated and be a part of the group, so it's something I'm very excited about and proud of."
Henrique remained off the ice on Friday, along with Ilya Kovalchuk, for some rest, but both will be in the lineup on Saturday when the Devils play the Florida Panthers in Game 5 at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.
Henrique is actually the first Devil to be voted a Calder finalist since Scott Gomez won the award in 2000. Martin Brodeur also won it for the Devils in 1994.
"It's a great honor, the Calder is one of these trophies that's once in a lifetime, so for you to be part of the top rookies is special," Brodeur said. "He's had a heck of a season, and played like a veteran out there. He was responsible, being on the power-play, penalty-kill and in five-on-five situations while playing on the top line.
"Sometimes, when you play on teams expected to win, it's a little tougher, but to play as a rookie, he adjusted really well."
The 22-year-old Henrique, selected in the third round (No. 82) by the Devils in 2008, earned a full-time spot in the lineup this season after Jacob Josefson fractured his right clavicle on Oct. 21. The Devils were already without center Travis Zajac, who was coming off Achilles surgery in August, so the need for a quality center became of the utmost importance.
"I think things started to click when early while playing with Zach and Kovy," Henrique said. "Once we started playing well, it gave me extra confidence to be here and stick around. That was a big confidence boost for me.
"Due to the injuries, this was something I wanted to take advantage of and prove to the staff and everyone here that I could play and fit in with those guys. Once things started going, it carried through the year."
The Brantford, Ontario native finished first among all first-year players with 35 assists and third with 51 points in 74 games. He also tied for the League lead with four shorthanded goals. Henrique finished one point behind Landeskog (22 goals, 52 points) and Nugent-Hopkins (18 goals, 52 points) for the rookie scoring lead.
"It was a hard thing to do at his age," Parise said. "In your first year, there's pressure and sometimes it's tough to cope with when you go through those funks. He never really changed his game whether the points were coming or not, though, and that was key."
Henrique led all rookies with 501 faceoff wins on 1,026 draws (48.8 percent). He ranked 10th among rookie forwards with 83 hits, third with 57 blocked shots and second with 49 takeaways during the regular season.
"He worked the entire season to be in that group, and it's a special group of players he's mentioned with there and deservedly so," DeBoer said. "He's skilled and a good kid, but I think the biggest thing is he doesn't have an ego. He got sent back at first, coming out of training camp, and I've seen that effect that could have on a player -- some feel sorry for themselves. But because he has no ego, he got another chance very quickly and made the most of it."
After being selected by the Devils at the draft, Henrique spent two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League with the Windsor Spitfires and one more with the American Hockey League's Albany Devils.
Despite the fact he doesn't have a goal through four games in the playoffs and has gone 11 straight games without a score, he remains positive.
"I think you got to chip in any way you can," Henrique said. "It's the playoffs, and we've had offensive contributions from the fourth-line guys and the top guys are producing offensively, so that's another area where I need to try to do more.
"At the same time, we have to take care of other aspects of the game like playing solid defensively. I thought, as a [third] line, we had our best game in Game 4. We skated well, were on the puck. If you're not scoring, you need to be doing other things to contribute to the win."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
I challenged him to a goalie fight when we chatted before the game, but he didn't want to go. It was strange to see him at the other end of the ice, but I'm sure he felt the same way looking down at our end.
— Vancouver goalie Eddie Lack joking about facing his former teammate Roberto Luongo after the Canucks' win against the Panthers