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Zajac shooting to be an impact player

Saturday, 09.18.2010 / 5:19 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Zajac shooting to be an impact player
Zajac looking to take more strides in 2010-11.
Travis Zajac might've had a career year in 2009-10, but he's still looking to cement his status as an impact player in the NHL.

Zajac began training camp on Saturday centering Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, a position that could lead to great things for him as he prepares to enter his fifth season.

"I want to be someone who can help the team generate offense every shift, every time I’m on the ice," Zajac said. "I think I’m capable of doing that especially playing with the players we have here. I just want to be a guy you can count on to score goals and help the team offensively and defensively, as well. I think that’s been the strongest part of my game, my defensive play. Hopefully I continue to work on that."

Zajac notched career highs of 25 goals and 67 points last season and doesn't plan on stopping there. He worked on his skating this summer to improve his speed, and visited Minnesota to work with shooting coach Scott Bjugstad, who also trains Parise.

"Everything in hockey is technique: skating, shooting. It makes your shot more fluid, quicker, faster," Zajac said. "It’s like anything, if you work on that technique, your shot’s going to become better, your skating’s going to become better."

Parise would like to see Zajac take better advantage of his shooting opportunities.

"With the way he shoots the puck, I think he should shoot more," Parise said. "He can be guilty of being too unselfish sometimes. If I could shoot the puck like him, I'd be shooting all the time – not that I don't shoot all the time anyway. I'd be shooting a lot more. He's probably got one of the best shots on our team. I think everyone, him included, would want to see him shoot more, and I think he will this year."

Faceoffs are an important part of a center's repertoire, and Zajac's sure to learn a thing or two from assistant coach Adam Oates.

"It’s just something you have to work on," said Zajac, who was the Devils' top faceoff man last year (52.9%). "A lot of it is timing and quickness and strength. For me it’s just working on it every day. I think now that we have Oatesy here, who’s one of the best centermen, faceoff guys and puck moving centermen that’s ever played the game, I’m excited to learn from him and see what kind of tricks he’s got up his sleeve."

Zajac, who turned 25 in May, is the Devils' ironman with 319 straight games played since Oct. 26, 2006. His durability combined with his shot and defensive smarts make him one to watch in 2010-11.

"I've considered him an impact player since his first year," Parise said. "He had a really good rookie year and he's gotten better since then. He's the type of player that doesn't always have to wind up on the scoresheet to be an impact player. He's going to get his points, a lot of assists and a lot of goals, but he does a lot of smart things on the ice that aren't on the scoresheet after the game."