Devils put Henrique on top line with Zajac, Kovalchuk


Devils head coach Peter DeBoer is toying with the idea of loading up his top line following Thursday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Islanders.

During Friday’s practice, Adam Henrique — last year’s Calder Trophy finalist — was moved to left wing and skated alongside center Travis Zajac and right Ilya Kovalchuk.

The move comes after Henrique shifted to the Zajac-Kovalchuk line midway through last night’s defeat.

Henrique, normally a center, does hold the advantage of being a left-handed shot, meaning he can move to the top unit and allow Kovalchuk to remain on his familiar right-hand side.

The move also gives DeBoer a high-profile top scoring unit featuring arguably his three best forwards. Kovalchuk led the team in scoring a year ago (37G-46A-83PTS) while Henrique finished fourth with 51 points, 18 points back of third leading scorer Zach Parise.

Parise’s worth mentioning here because, prior to signing with the Minnesota Wild, he was part of the “loaded-up first line” strategy with Kovalchuk and Zajac.

The trio didn’t play together all that much during the regular season — serious injuries to both Zajac and Parise played their roles — but were reunited during last year’s Stanley Cup run.

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
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The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.

You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:

If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.

The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?