Ducks’ Henrique, Devils’ Vatanen face former teams

Geoff Burke

Ducks @ Devils

Monday @ 3:30 PM PT

TV: FOX Sports GO

NEWARK, N.J. — On Nov. 30, the New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks made a substantial in-season trade that moved center Adam Henrique west and sent defenseman Sami Vatanen east.

Three weeks later, Henrique returns to the Prudential Center as the Ducks (14-11-8) play the Devils (18-9-5) on Monday night for the first time since the trade.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Henrique said after practice Sunday in New Jersey. “Honestly, I’m going to try to not think about all that all day, but it’ll be hard not to. I’m sure it will be emotional.”

Henrique was a Devils mainstay for more than six seasons, twice topping 50 points and surpassing 20 goals on three occasions. As a rookie in 2011-12, he scored the winning goal in overtime in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final that helped the Devils eliminate the New York Rangers.

“You feel good about what you left behind and what I did in my time, not only at the rink, but away from the rink, as well,” Henrique said.

New Jersey parted with the popular Henrique because it needed to improve its defensive corps. The Devils were able to do so because of the improved, young, talented forwards on the roster this season.

The Ducks — with an injury-ravaged group of forwards and a deep crop of defensemen — needed Henrique and were able to give up Vatanen, who broke into the league with Anaheim during the 2012-13 season.

“I think Anaheim got a very good player and a high-character guy. We got a very good player and high-character guy,” Devils coach John Hynes said. “I think both teams filled some voids that they felt needed to be a little bit stronger in both lineups. I think both teams made out well.”

Henrique started strong with the Ducks, getting points in each of his first five games after the trade, though he is without a point in the past three.

Overall, Henrique has three goals, three assists and six points with the Ducks. Vatanen has averaged nearly 22 minutes of ice time but has no points in eight games with the Devils.

“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster, up and down, but it’ll take a little bit of time,” Vatanen said Sunday.

The Devils, who beat the Stars 5-2 to open a six-game homestand on Friday, should get two important players back in their lineup against the Ducks.

Taylor Hall, the team’s leading scorer with 31 points, returns after a two-game absence caused by a sore knee. Kyle Palmieri expects to be cleared by doctors to play for the first time in 13 games after recovering from a broken right foot.

“To miss just a couple games and have the guys play so well, it’s a good feeling to come back and play when the guys are playing so well,” Hall said.

The Ducks are in the middle of a six-game road trip. So far, they have three of a possible four points, beating the St. Louis Blues 3-1 on Thursday before dropping a 3-2 decision in overtime to the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

Overall, the Ducks enter Monday with at least one point in seven consecutive games (3-0-4).

Even with the recent returns of Ryan Getzlaf and Hampus Lindholm to the lineup, the Ducks remain a beat-up squad. Corey Perry, Patrick Eaves and Ryan Kesler are among those who are still injured on a team that has amassed 200 man-games lost to injury already this season.

“Guys are trying to fill roles, other guys are stepping up,” defenseman Josh Manson told the Ducks’ website. “Now, we have (some) guys coming back, we should be going out there with even more confidence.”