Lineup Changes: Henrique, Larsson To Debut vs. Isles

It’ll be a big night for the future of the Devils(and for guys named Adam, too) on Thursday when Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson get their first crack at playing this season. Henrique’s been sidelined for two months following hand surgery. He, like Larsson, began the lockout playing with Albany of the AHL before getting hurt during a game in November.

“I thought we did a great job as a group of everyone stepping up while he was out,” coach Pete DeBoer said Thursday, “but hes a big part of our team obviously and you can start to slot people in the right spots when hes in the lineup.”

While Henrique will likely eventually slot in on the second line between Patrik Elias and David Clarkson, he’ll start Thursday’s game on the fourth unit, skating with Krys Barch and former Albany teammate Matt Anderson. Don’t expect that to stick though.

“I think that’s the plan right now,” DeBoer said, noting it’s possible Henrique could see time on the power play against the Islanders. “I’m sure knowing him that’s not gonna last for long.”

DeBoer said he has a number in his head for how many minutes he expects from Henrique tonight, but, of course, wouldn’t divulge it. He also acknowledged that’s subject to change.

For his part, Henrique said he feels good and the thumb is “good to go,” although he declined to say whether it’s 100 percent. As for how much he expects to play, Henrique towed the company line, so to speak.

“We’ll see what the game brings,” Henrique said. “Things change, but that’ll be up to the coach depending on what situation were in, how I’m feeling and where we are in the game.”

As for Larsson, the former first-round pick is getting his shot because of a minor upper-body injury to fellow defenseman Mark Fayne.

“It’s an opportunity to put a 100-percent-healthy guy in the lineup and get him a game,” DeBoer said. “Like we’ve said all along he’s an NHL player, we’ve just had the luxury of having some depth there so it’s nice to get him in.”

DeBoer doesn’t want Larsson to try to do too much to too much, stressing it’s important for the 20-year-old defenseman to stay within himself and play his game.

“I know my game and that’s what I’m gonna do out there,” Larsson said. “I’m not gonna change anything just because I’m sitting out for five games. … (They) put me in for a reason and they want to see my game out there, not somebody else.”

Of course, that’s easier said than done when you’ve barely played after suiting up for 65 contests as a rookie. Perhaps that’s why DeBoer decided to pair Larsson with veteran defenseman Andy Greene tonight. Greene should help provide a calming influence over the rookie, making sure he doesn’t try to prove he belongs in the NHL every time he’s out on the ice.

“I think hes smart enough to know he doesn’t need to score a goal to stay in the lineup,” DeBoer said of his young defenseman.