NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils will see two familiar faces returning to the lineup on Thursday when center Adam Henrique and defenseman Adam Larsson make their season debut against the New York Islanders at Prudential Center.
"I thought we did a great job as a group in stepping up while [Henrique] was out, but he's a big part of our team and now we can start to slot people in the right spots," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We will start him on the fourth line, but I'm sure, knowing him, that's not going to last for long."
Henrique, who underwent surgery on Nov. 29 to reattach the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb, began skating with the team again on Friday. He suffered his injury on Nov. 25 while playing for the Devils' American Hockey League affiliate in Albany.
"Right now, first game, I'm not going to look too far ahead," Henrique said. "It's difficult going from skating on your own, to a couple of guys and then getting into a game. It's a different speed. I'm sure it will take a little bit to just get back to normal. But I fully expect my game to be where it was last year and down the stretch. I'm excited to be back and around the guys."
In 74 games last season for the Devils, Henrique, a 2012 Calder Trophy finalist, had 16 goals, 51 points and a plus-8 rating. He also led the team with four shorthanded goals and won 48.8 percent of his faceoffs.
Greene is looking forward to having Larsson as a partner against the Islanders.
"It's exciting for [Larsson] to get back in because he's worked extremely hard this year being down in Albany and being able to play," Greene told NHL.com. "He hasn't been in an NHL game in a while, but he'll be ready and sure he'll be looking forward to it."
Larsson played in 65 games as a rookie last season with the Devils, producing two goals, 18 points and a minus-7 rating. He finished the season tied for second among NHL rookie defensemen with 16 assists.
"I'm not putting any pressure on myself … I know my game and I'm not going to change anything just because I sat out for the first five games," Larsson said. "Getting back into it with a partner like Andy Greene will help me. He's been really good so far, so that's going to help me for sure."
Meanwhile, Devils rookie Stefan Matteau will be a healthy scratch for the contest.
The question on everyone's mind, of course, is whether or not Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello intends to keep Matteau on the roster now that his five-game tryout has concluded.
Lamoriello told reporters on Wednesday that Matteau would remain with the club for the time being and not be returned to his junior team, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior League. If Matteau suits up for another NHL game, it would mark his sixth game with the Devils and his entry-level contract would officially kick in. If Lamoriello opts to return him to juniors before playing a sixth game, the organization would save a year.
"I think Lou said it best [on Wednesday], that he'll stay as long as he belongs here and we feel he's getting better, so it's a day-to-day thing," DeBoer said.
Lamoriello said the decision regarding Matteau would not come down to whether they could save a year on his contract. Instead, it's all about Matteau, and what would best benefit his development with the organization.
"He will not be going back immediately and we're not going to let his contract status get in the way," Lamoriello said Wednesday. "We're going to continue evaluating this and a decision won't be made at this point."
Matteau has yet to record a point in five games, sports a plus-1 rating and has averaged 8:28 in ice time. He's also opened the last two road games on the team's top line alongside center Travis Zajac and right wing Ilya Kovalchuk.
Here are the possible line combinations for the Devils against the Islanders:
Injured: Mark Fayne
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