NEWARK, N.J. - Looking for the hottest goal scorer since the NHL resumed play following the Olympics?
The 24-year-old Henrique has scored nine goals in the Devils' six games since play resumed two weeks ago, tallying at least one in every game and four in the last two. His six-game goal-scoring streak is the second longest in the league this season, only a game behind Anaheim's Corey Perry. The third-year player now has a career-high 23 goals.
Heading into Monday night's games, Jonathan Toews of Chicago, Artem Anisimov of Columbus and Johan Franzen of Detroit shared the second-highest goal total since the break with six apiece. Tyler Seguin of Dallas rounded out the top five with five, according to STATS.
"It's going well right now," said Henrique, who was given an extra day off to rest Monday while the team practiced. "The pucks are going in. I am trying to simplify my game. I didn't change anything. I am just trying to shoot the puck more when I have an opportunity. We kind of talked about that during the break. We had to find a way to make a little more offence, instead of making that one extra pass, you are trying to shoot pucks, get pucks on net. It's going in right now and hopefully it will continue."
Teammates are well aware of how hot Henrique is, and they are treating him like a pitcher going for a perfect game. No one is asking him to either touch their sticks or borrow his. He is being left alone.
Jaromir Jagr, who recently became the seventh player to score 700 NHL goals, laughed when asked about having Henrique's luck rub off on teammates.
"Actually, we shouldn't touch his stick at all," Jagr said. "We should put him in a different room."
Seriously, Jagr said the Devils should ride Henrique, give him a lot of minutes and "somehow don't mess it up for him."
Goaltender Marty Brodeur said Henrique was just as hot in the post-Olympics practices.
"You know it was coming in the games," Brodeur said. "I think he has been great. Actually I have been looking for him for my outlet passes from the zone so I can get a couple of more points. He has been great and it comes at a good time for us because we needed that goal scoring. Whatever he did during that break, he should do it more often."
Fellow goaltender Cory Schneider said Henrique may have had as many chances earlier in the season, but was the victim of good saves and hitting some goal posts.
"It's honestly amazing how much an inch or two of a difference can make, and they start going in." Schneider said.
What's also amazing about Henrique's play is that he is scoring with different lines. He was put on the left wing with centre Patrik Elias and right wing Damien Brunner coming out of the break, and was switched to centre on Friday against Detroit with Michael Ryder and Ryane Clowe on the wings. It didn't make a difference: Henrique had five goals playing with Elias and company and four with Ryder and Clowe.
Henrique was the league's second star of the week in the first week after the Olympic break and he slipped to the third star last week despite scoring five goals.
Coach Pete DeBoer said Henrique's confidence is sky high. Other than that, his game is the same. He is a hard-grinding, two-way player.
Scoring goals at the right time also is nothing new. The native of Brantford, Ontario helped Windsor win the Memorial Cup in the 2009 and '10, and he became the first NHL rookie to score two overtime series-clinching goals in the same playoff season in helping New Jersey get to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012.
DeBoer called Henrique, who got a new long-term contract last year, a big-game player.
"I don't think it's an accident that a guy like that, his whole career, he has that reputation," DeBoer said. "I think that is God-given. It's not something you can teach, but when you go back to this guy's history in the Memorial Cup and the playoffs with us, he has an ability to find another level at this time of year and in the playoffs."
Heading to Philadelphia for a game against the Flyers on Tuesday night, the Devils need that. With 17 games left in the regular season, they need wins to get into a playoff spot.
"Nobody in here has said too much to me," Henrique said. "We're just trying to play well and win games."
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