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Henrique shedding temporary tag with clutch plays

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils rookie forward Adam Henrique admits he never once received any sly remarks regarding the curvature -- or lack thereof -- on his hockey stick during his career.
That is until New Jersey assistant coach Adam Oates got a closer look at the flat-as-a-pancake blade.
"It's the Mike Modano curve," Henrique told "I've had it my whole life. Nobody has ever given me heck for it until I got here and Adam Oates saw it -- he doesn't like it."
Sounds like quite a predicament for a 21-year-old, first-year League player, eh? Here's Adam Oates, an NHL veteran who amassed 341 goals and 1,420 points across 19 NHL seasons, advising Henrique to consider switching his stick blade.
"He wants more toe in the blade," Henrique said with a grin.
Don't think for a second Oates, one of the game's best-ever passers, changed his tone after witnessing Henrique fire home two goals off breakaways – including the game winner -- in Saturday's 3-2 overtime victory against the Winnipeg Jets, either. Or, after Henrique netted the game-winner on a sweet wrap-around play in Tuesday's 3-2 win against Carolina.
Adam Henrique
Center - NJD
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 7
SOG: 20 | +/-: 1
"I don't think the breakaway goals changed his mind," Henrique said. "But a flat blade is just something I've been used to and have played with my whole life … it's working. We'll see how it goes from here."
Despite the fact Oates wasn't available for comment on the matter, he's most likely ecstatic Henrique has gotten off to such a great start at a time when the Devils need him most.
A long-term injury to center Travis Zajac (left Achilles tendon) and a more recent one to Jacob Josefson (broken right clavicle) gifted Henrique a golden opportunity to show exactly why the Devils made him their third-round choice (No. 82) in the 2008 Draft.
And after getting a taste of the good life, the 6-foot, 195-pound pivot has no intention of relinquishing his role.
"I want to be here," Henrique said. "I want to play here and I don't want to go anywhere else, so my goal every night is to, first, help the team win. I'm not looking too far ahead and we'll wait and see what happens but I feel if I just keep playing the same way, keep gelling and working with my linemates and having success, things will go in the right direction."
Boy, have things ever gone in the right direction.


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According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Henrique became the first Devils rookie since Patrik Elias in 1997 to score consecutive game-winners after his wrap-around with 3:19 left in the third period against Carolina goalie Cam Ward on Tuesday. With the goal, Henrique atoned for an earlier miscue, when an attempted pass by a Carolina player deflected off his stick and into his own cage a little more than 10 minutes prior.
"That's tough to allow the tying goal there but I told myself to look past it," he said. "The score was 2-2 and you can't sit back. I put it behind me and got ready for the next shift."
The effort against Carolina prompted this remark from Devils coach Peter DeBoer: "He has a unique composure … almost an Elias-type composure where the game might be moving around him, but it doesn't rattle him -- and that's a great quality to have."
In 73 games with the Devils' American Hockey League affiliate in Albany last season, Henrique finished with a team-leading 25 goals and was second with 50 points. He won back-to-back Memorial Cup titles with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League in 2009 and '10, and won a silver medal with Team Canada at the 2010 World Junior Championship.
"Obviously, there was an adjustment period at the start, but I've felt better the past couple of weeks and I think it's starting to show on the ice," Henrique said.
While Henrique probably received plenty of experience playing alongside talented individuals during his junior hockey days, that likely pales in comparison to his current wingmen with the Devils -- Zach Parise, David Clarkson and, formerly, Ilya Kovalchuk, now out with an injury.
"For me, is was about not throwing away the puck and hanging onto it down low, making plays and being confident," Henrique said. "Anytime you get a chance to play with guys like Zach, Kovy or Clarkie, it's a great opportunity and honor.

"As long as he's getting chances, using his speed and taking care of details in his own end of the ice, that's a good thing. It's important that we keep him on the rails and make sure he realizes that even if he's not scoring every night, he can still help us in a lot of different ways." -- Devils coach Peter DeBoer

"Everybody in here is a big kid, really. They love the game and we all want to work hard and earn our ice time. We've had some success the last couple of games and hopefully we can keep that rolling, keep things going in the right direction."
In the past four games, including two without Kovalchuk due to a lower-body injury, Henrique has struck for 4 goals and 6 points. He's also logged plenty of ice time in critical situations.
"For me it's consistency; he's not going to score every night but he's got to consistently be a threat," DeBoer said. "As long as he's getting chances, using his speed and taking care of details in his own end of the ice, that's a good thing. It's important that we keep him on the rails and make sure he realizes that even if he's not scoring every night, he can still help us in a lot of different ways."
In addition to his scoring prowess with the flat blade, Henrique has proven to be an important asset in less visible ways. He has blocked 10 shots, delivered nine hits and won 54 of 104 draws (51.9 percent) in 10 games this season. On top of that, he's yet to be charged with a giveaway.
"I'm comfortable with the position I play and having linemates like Zach is great," Henrique said. "He can stay down low … he knows what I'm going to do and we fill in for each other. That's another thing that contributes to our success as a line. We can all play every position, there's nothing to worry about when we are switched."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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