NHL

Zajac strengthens streaking Devils

Hockey Primetime Bill Weisbrod
Share This Story

   
 

When Travis Zajac tore his Achilles tendon while working out in Winnipeg in August, the Devils' most pressing player personnel issue instantly became how to fill the hole remaining at center.

Four months later, with the 26-year-old finally back in the Devils' lineup, the middle of the ice looks like a strength that could propel New Jersey for the rest of the season.

After missing the first 30 games, Zajac rejoined the Devils in Friday night's 6-3 win against the Dallas Stars in New Jersey. His presence gives coach Pete DeBoer a high-end option at center for each of his top three lines.

Zajac's return supplements veteran Patrik Elias, who is on pace for his highest point total in five years. It also complements Adam Henrique, who has been arguably the Eastern Conference's best rookie forward.

Zajac played more than 15 minutes in his season debut, put three shots on goal and did not register a point. He skated with wingers David Clarkson and Mattias Tedenby.

"It's a lot different from practice, that's for sure," Zajac said after his first game back. "It's definitely exciting to come back to a team that's playing really well, and playing with a lot of confidence. Tonight, just to be part of that was good."

He saw less ice time than Henrique and Elias, but that trend may not continue in the long term. Longevity has never been an issue for Zajac, who had played in a franchise-record 401 consecutive games before the injury.

"We're going to ease Travis back in," DeBoer said. "He's not ready for 18, 20 minutes a night like that (Henrique-Zach Parise-Ilya Kovalchuk) line plays, yet. Henrique's done a good job, so we don't need to make that decision yet."

nhl ice girls

MELT THE ICE

Forget the Zamboni. The best way to clean the ice is NHL ice girls.

The team's most recent trade indicates that management sees center as a position of strength as well. Pivot Rod Pelley was dealt to Anaheim earlier this week for defenseman Kurtis Foster.

Mediocre is the best word to describe the Devils' overall performance so far this season. The team was ninth in the Eastern Conference going into its meeting with Dallas and has been putrid on the power play, converting just 12.5 percent of its opportunities, 27th in the NHL.

Zajac's presence, however, is one of a several factors that should make the Devils optimistic.

Parise, who is a free agent at the end of the season, started the year mired in a slump, but has registered five goals and 11 assists in his last 10 games — including a season-high four points Friday. The captain has found his game since being put on a line with Henrique and Kovalchuk; four of his six multi-point games have occurred this month.

"Zach has been taking his game to another level recently, and we need it," DeBoer said.

Parise sees the difference as well.

"I wasn't playing well," he said. "I've felt better on the ice, and we're definitely starting to find each other a lot."

The win was the Devils' fifth in six games, a stretch that has seen them score 23 goals following a four-game losing streak. Despite a new coach, the Devils' roster isn't missing any key parts from the group that was the hottest team in the league during the second half last season.

And now Zajac may be catching his teammates at just the right time.

Atlantic Division notes:

Flyers C Claude Giroux was diagnosed with a concussion following an accidental knee to the head from teammate Wayne Simmonds in last Saturday's game against Tampa Bay. He is out indefinitely. ... Rangers D Michael Sauer is also out indefinitely with following a concussion resulting from a hit by Toronto's Dion Phaneuf on Dec. 5. ... The Islanders placed G Rick DiPietro on injured reserve with a groin injury on Friday, but welcomed RW Nino Niederreiter (concussion symptoms), well as defensemen Andy McDonald (leg) and Mark Eaton (knee), back to practice the same day. ... Penguins C Sidney Crosby has not played since Dec. 5 after a recurrence of headaches. There is not yet a timetable for his return

Tagged: Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by



Play Hockey Simulation Game on WhatIfSports

NHL Videos

Toews, Kane: Easy decision to resign with Blackhawks Posted: Jul 17, 2014
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane say their decision to sign matching 8-year, $84M...

LA mayor 'F-bombs' Kings rally Posted: Jun 17, 2014
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti toasts the Stanley Cup champion Kings in front o...

Kings, fans celebrate Stanley Cup Posted: Jun 16, 2014
Kings players celebrate winning the Stanley Cup with a parade through downtown L...

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Reebok Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins Premier Hockey Jersey - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Pittsburgh_Penguins/browse/featuredproduct/175178/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_175000/FF_175178_xl.jpg&w=100 159.95 Reebok Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins Premier Hockey Jersey - Black
    Reebok Dallas Stars White Premier Hockey Jersey http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Dallas_Stars/browse/featuredproduct/243363/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_243000/FF_243363_xl.jpg&w=100 124.95 Reebok Dallas Stars White Premier Hockey Jersey
    Reebok Tampa Bay Lightning Primary Logo T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Tampa_Bay_Lightning/browse/featuredproduct/301017/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_301000/ff_301017_xl.jpg&w=100 19.95 Reebok Tampa Bay Lightning Primary Logo T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Majestic Anaheim Ducks Black Official Logo Full Zip Hoodie Sweatshirt http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Anaheim_Ducks/browse/featuredproduct/398322/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_398000/FF_398322_xl.jpg&w=100 43.99 Majestic Anaheim Ducks Black Official Logo Full Zip Hoodie Sweatshirt
    Detroit Red Wings Youth Black Southpaw Backpack http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Detroit_Red_Wings/browse/featuredproduct/403205/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_403000/FF_403205_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Detroit Red Wings Youth Black Southpaw Backpack
    Reebok Chicago Blackhawks #88 Patrick Kane Red Premier Hockey Jersey http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Chicago_Blackhawks/browse/featuredproduct/408123/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_408000/FF_408123_xl.jpg&w=100 159.95 Reebok Chicago Blackhawks #88 Patrick Kane Red Premier Hockey Jersey
    Majestic New Jersey Devils Red Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_Jersey_Devils/browse/featuredproduct/456774/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_456000/ff_456774_xl.jpg&w=100 47.99 Majestic New Jersey Devils Red Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt
    Vancouver Canucks 2011 NHL Western Conference Champions Hockey Stick http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Vancouver_Canucks/browse/featuredproduct/665779/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_665000/ff_665779_xl.jpg&w=100 11.95 Vancouver Canucks 2011 NHL Western Conference Champions Hockey Stick
    Majestic New York Islanders Royal Blue Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Islanders/browse/featuredproduct/752594/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_752000/ff_752594_xl.jpg&w=100 47.99 Majestic New York Islanders Royal Blue Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt