Anytime you insert a high-profile player back into a lineup, it’ll cause ripple effects throughout the team. If you double that up, you would expect double the ripples and double the nervous energy. So what should Pete DeBoer expect out of Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson tonight against the Islanders? Well, both admitted they expected nerves to be a part of their season debuts.
“Yeah, of course, it’s the first game so it’s always special,” Larsson noted.
Henrique’s injury makes it a bit of a different situation for him, but he still expects things to be a little different.
“It’s different going from skating on your own to skating with a couple guys and then going into the game,” Henrique said. “It’s a different speed.”
It’s not like they’re coming completely off the bench. Both Henrique and Larsson played with the Devils’ AHL affiliate during the lockout, which DeBoer has noted likely helped ease the layoff for Larsson in particular.
On Thursday, Henrique agreed that it definitely helps to have already seen time in a game.
“I think it helped me in my conditioning wise, coming back. Maybe it helped me come back a little quicker,” Henrique said. ” … I’ve been skating on my own for a few weeks now, working out off the ice making sure everything’s where it needs to be. I feel good. I’m ready to be back. I’ve had enough time off.”
Corey GriffinWhile Larsson seemed cool, calm and collected today (at least on the surface), Henrique seemed ready to jump out of his sneakers. I think you’d need all of your appendages to count how many time Henrique used the word “excited.” It was Tim Tebow-esque. You can see how much he’s anxious to shake off whatever rust might have formed. Devils fans should be aware that they likely won’t see either player look nearly as good as they did at times last season. I think the move to start off Larsson with Greene and Henrique on the fourth line is a really smart one by DeBoer. It’ll give both players time to shake the jitters and nervous energy in lower-pressure situations rather than throwing them right on the fire at first.
Also, the interesting difference to me comes in the situation is coming back into. While Henrique is basically skating his way into the second-line center role, Larsson sounded to me like he knows he has something to prove. DeBoer has said time and time again that he’s an “NHL defenseman,” but he’s also pointed out the Devils have eight of those on their current roster. Henrique’s going to play and going to play a major role for this team, but Larsson’s role going forward doesn’t get any less murky because he’s suddenly in the lineup for the first time. The injury to Mark Fayne gives them a timely excuse to get the kid some ice time, but no matter what Larsson or DeBoer say, he has got to prove himself every shift tonight or else he could find himself sitting for another five games.
We know Henrique is probably going to play every single night and I expect he’ll end up skating in the top six by the end of tonight’s game. He might get a rest here or there for maintenance reasons, but Larsson’s roster spot is no lock. He could go back to the AHL if he sits for too long and he has to know that — especially since DeBoer has said as much. Although all parties talked about Larsson playing a simple game and not trying to score a goal on every shift, I wouldn’t be shocked if he forced a few things during the course of the game.