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Back in Albany, Henrique honing leadership skills

by Dan Rosen

NEWARK, N.J. -- Like a veteran back in his element, Adam Henrique strides across the familiar bright red carpet inside the dressing room with an air of confidence about him. This is a player who recognizes exactly where he is, has precise goals of what he wants to achieve in hockey and totally understands how this bump in the road he's come to can't stop him from becoming the player he's determined to become.

Henrique, a Calder Trophy finalist last season, wants to be a captain in the National Hockey League. He wants to be the player young guys look to for guidance. He wants to be the voice of a team -- the pulse, the guy the coach leans on.

"A few years down the road I want to be in the position that Zach Parise is in -- that's how I look at it," Henrique told after playing in an American Hockey League preseason game for the Albany Devils. "Hopefully a few years down the road, some kid will be sitting in my spot and I'll be teaching him things."

Playing in the AHL, for however long it may be as a result of the ongoing work stoppage, will give Henrique the chance to flex his leadership muscles.

He put up 51 points for the New Jersey Devils last season as a surprise rookie standout. Due to the work stoppage, Henrique is starting the 2012-13 season in the AHL, the league he graduated from after three games last October.


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"I'm not one of the older guys in the room, but that [NHL] experience from last year can enable me to be more of a leader here," Henrique said. "I can take what I learned from [New Jersey's veteran players] and try to pass it on to the guys here. You always try to remember those guys that helped you out when you didn't know much -- well, there are guys in here that don't know much, and now I can be a leader and pass the little that I've learned along to them."

On this day at AmeriHealth Pavilion inside Prudential Center, after playing in a scrimmage against the Adirondack Phantoms, Henrique retreats into the same dressing room he called home last season, the same locker stall he sat in before and after every practice with the Devils.

Of course, besides the building, the colors and the organizational philosophy, so much is different.

Henrique is surrounded by various types of players -- dreamers still hopeful of making it to the NHL, veterans trying to hang on to the game for one last shot at glory, and some, like him, just biding their time and making the best of the situation.

He's still one of the youngest players on the team at 22. He was one of 13 players on Albany's training camp roster born in the '90s. There were 36 players on the roster.

But Henrique has played in 75 NHL games and has been to the Stanley Cup Final.

"I don't want to come in here and think I'm the big boss man," Henrique said with a smile. "That's not me."

Nor would it go over well in any dressing room, let alone one filled with players who are aware Henrique will be back in the NHL the moment a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed.

But for now, Henrique is determined to make the Albany Devils a better team and himself a better player and leader. He doesn't care so much about why he's back in the AHL, only about what he does with his time there.

"Once you make that jump [from the AHL] you obviously don't want to come back, you want to play in the NHL for 15 or 20 years, but it doesn't always happen like that," Henrique said. "There are situations like this, or whatever it may be, that is out of my control as an individual. It's something I try not to worry about and just focus on what I have to do to be ready."

The early reviews suggest Henrique's focus, energy and attitude with Albany are telling of his desire to make the best of the situation.

"He's been outstanding, excited, ready to play," New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer told after watching Henrique in training camp for a few days. "He's here and competing hard in all the scrimmages, all the drills. It's nothing you wouldn't expect from Adam."

Albany coach Rick Kowalsky, in his third season with the organization, said Henrique carries himself in the dressing room as a leader -- someone totally invested in the AHL team.

"He's mature and just the way he carries himself day in and day out, he's just very even-keeled. I've seen that even more now," said Kowalsky, who had Henrique two years ago when the center was a first-year pro. "From our standpoint, he definitely has the respect of the guys in that room -- and the guys that were with him two years ago definitely know what he's like and that he's a character guy. He's a winner."

Henrique is realistic about what he may or may not be able to accomplish with Albany.

When asked about the pressure to produce at the AHL level now that he has proven he can do it at the NHL level, Henrique responded, "What, like put up 100 (points)?"

Maybe not that many because no one is sure how long he'll be in Albany, but certainly there has to be an expectation for Henrique to be a leading scorer on the team while he's there.

"I've never set specific numbers for myself. I want to play the right way every night, consistent and for the team," Henrique said. "If we're winning and I'm not putting up the points, but I'm playing the right way, that's good and I'm comfortable with that."

But wouldn't it seem to be …

"What, that it's going to be easy here [in the AHL]?" he responded before the question could even be asked. "No, it's not.

"Everybody here is trying to make the NHL. That's the goal. We're playing in here as a team, and obviously I want to produce wherever I am. I want to score goals. I want to make plays. You want to be that guy, but that's not always going to happen. There are little things that you have to do as an individual to help the team. It could be on a PK shift, blocking a shot -- whatever it may be, everybody has a role for a team to be successful."

Henrique's budding leadership is obvious with every statement he makes, every step he takes inside the familiar dressing room surrounded by unfamiliar teammates.

He talks about holding himself accountable no matter where he's playing. He says his standard for himself is higher now than it was at this time last season. He pushes his agenda of being a team-first player, how he's all about the Albany Devils even though he'd rather be all about the New Jersey Devils.

"I want to be counted on," Henrique said. "I want to be a leader."

He will be in Albany.

Consider it practice for what he plans to do in New Jersey.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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