Edmonton Oilers notebook: Adam Henrique’s family adjustment, Connor McDavid’s motivation

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As a pending free agent on a bad team, Adam Henrique knew he was going to get dealt before last Friday’s trade deadline.

The chance to go from a bottom-feeder to a Stanley Cup contender was most appreciated. Making the faraway move from Anaheim to Edmonton? Well, that wasn’t as ideal — and it has nothing to do with the colder climate.

Henrique and his wife, Lauren, welcomed their second daughter, Sophia, on Feb. 26. That made her just nine days old when her dad was acquired by the Oilers last Wednesday.

“It’s working out as best as it could,” Henrique said. “We tried to do everything we could to prepare for it.

“It was an exciting time for us as a family. With everything going on, we knew what to expect.”

The early days as an Oiler were a whirlwind for Henrique.

Even with the support of Henrique’s mom and parents-in-law, having Henrique home would surely be helpful right about now. Complaints have been few and far between from Lauren, though.

“She’s great,” Henrique said. “She’s so supportive of me going through everything considering what she had to go through as far as the pregnancy and birth. That’s a crazy experience.

“She’s been so good for me, just allowing me to go play hockey and focus on hockey. Everything at home has been great and taken care of where it eases my mind to not have to worry about it at all.”

The couple also has another daughter, Blake, who’s 16 months old, so Henrique understands full well what he’s missing out on right now. He was sidelined for six weeks near the end of last season with an injury, which gave him lots of time to spend with Blake.

Though Henrique hopes his wife and daughters will get the opportunity to visit Edmonton in the coming weeks, he won’t get much time with Sophia until after the hockey season ends.

“It is (hard),” he said. “They change so much when they’re little. Last year, I was home for a lot of that time, which, in retrospect, was pretty special.”

Henrique, 34, is adjusting on the ice. He started his Oilers tenure as the second-line winger next to Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane in Columbus, but that lasted for only a period before he was shifted to third-line centre.

For the last two games, he’s been flanked by Kane on the left side plus a rotation of Corey Perry and Connor Brown on the right.

Ice time and production have been harder to come by, too.

He averaged 17:35 over 60 games for the Ducks, posting 18 goals and 42 points in 60 games.

Henrique played 14:14 in Columbus, 13:52 in Buffalo (a 65-minute game) and 14:53 in Pittsburgh. He’s received just a few shifts on the penalty kill and didn’t get his first taste of the power play until the Pittsburgh game — 1:11.

He’s yet to record his first point as an Oiler.

Henrique figured there’d be kinks to work out. Those who know his game best, like Perry, are confident he’ll be a key contributor to the Oilers.

The hockey stuff seems like the easy part right now, though, for Henrique. He’s not sure when he’ll see his family again.

“We’ll wait and see,” Henrique said. “It’s just a little road trip for dad.”

Ducks-turned-Oilers teammate Sam Carrick is in a similar situation as Henrique with two young kids. However, it’s not anywhere near as complicated.

Carrick and his wife, Carley, have two sons — Liam, 4, and Jack, 2. Because neither boy is in school and isn’t in the constant newborn cycle of feedings, diaper changes and sleep, it’s a lot easier for them to make the move to Edmonton. They’ll make the trip north once Carrick finds a home for them to rent.

The transition has been easier for Carrick and his family — aside from one thing. Carrick joked that his older boy was a little confused about why his dad was no longer playing for the Ducks.

Carrick’s first three games on the Oilers roster have been understated.

He played just 7:38 in his debut against the Blue Jackets. His minutes were reduced because he fought Columbus tough guy Mathieu Olivier to try to jolt his new teammates and because an early deficit meant coach Kris Knoblauch had to rely more heavily on offensive forwards.

Though Carrick was dominant in the faceoff circle against Buffalo — he was a perfect 8-for-8 — he played just 9:24. Carrick averaged 12:38 in Anaheim over 61 games.

He was then scratched in favour of Derek Ryan for Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh.

Carrick, 32, desperately wanted to play for a playoff-bound team. He’ll now have to separate himself from the other fourth-liners to guarantee everyday duty with the Oilers.

He’s used to that. This is the first season he hasn’t had to go down to the minors — though last season was just a four-game conditioning stint.

Fittingly, he attributes family for really getting his NHL career going.

“Once I had my first kid, that’s when I took everything to the next level,” Carrick said.

Anyone who didn’t see Connor McDavid torching the Penguins on Sunday hasn’t been paying attention.

McDavid had a goal and two assists in a 4-0 win, upping his production to four goals and nine points in his last three games against the Pens. He has four goals and 11 points in his last three trips to Pittsburgh.

Colleague Rob Rossi had a great postgame column on McDavid and all the connections he has to the Steel City.

There are more. Former Penguin Cody Ceci sees “a lot of similarities” between McDavid and his predecessor as Canada’s premier hockey star, Sidney Crosby.

“They’re trying to get better every single day. They’re trying to be the best they can be. They’re not taking any days off, and they hold the rest of the team accountable,” Ceci said.

“When you see the best players in the world working hard and staying on the ice after practice and trying to get better, it just pushes everyone else to do the same. If the best players in the world are doing it, then you should be doing it, too.”

Oilers assistant coach Paul Coffey is attuned with both organizations. He won three of his four championships in Edmonton as a player. The other one was as a Penguin.

As a teammate of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, Coffey witnessed the latter trying to chase down the former up close. He’s noticed a striking resemblance in McDavid striving for Crosby’s standard.

“Sid’s a complete hockey player with a capital C,” Coffey said. “Connor has incredible offensive talent and speed. He’s worked hard at every aspect of his game. He’s a 200-foot player right now. Takes the body when he has to. Always in good position.

“He has the eye of the tiger — and that’s what’s important.”

McDavid’s sixth Art Ross Trophy is well within reach. He’s third in league scoring with 103 points. Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon tops the list with 111 points, whereas Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov is sandwiched between them with 107. McDavid has two games in hand on both players.

Coffey said he wouldn’t put it past McDavid to claim the scoring title for the fourth straight season.

Individual accolades are second to a team championship, though. Crosby has hoisted the Stanley Cup three times. That’s what McDavid is missing.

“It’s rewarding for them to win it, but I don’t think it’s as rewarding as it would be to win a Cup,” Ceci said. “They both humble guys. They’re not cherishing those (personal awards) too much. They’re more focused on the big goal.”

“Connor is a winner,” Coffey said. “He’s not only a great hockey player, but he’s a winner. He’s not yet won a Stanley Cup, but he strives every day to be that champion.”

(Photo of Adam Henrique: Joe Sargent / NHLI via Getty Images)

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