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Zajac on the mend, visits practice

Monday, 10.31.2011 / 3:12 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Zajac on the mend, visits practice
Zajac has resumed skating. (Getty/NHL Images)
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The sight of a smiling Travis Zajac at the rink Monday was enough to spark new optimism for his speedy return.

Though the Devils' top center is still recovering from offseason surgery to repair his left Achilles tendon, he's finally back on the ice and skated last week for the first time.

"I’m feeling pretty good," Zajac said. "I’m progressing well. I’m just kind of taking it in stride and going from there."

Zajac has been training back home in his native Winnipeg, but is visiting New Jersey through Wednesday. He underwent surgery back on Aug. 18, when it was announced he'd be sidelined for 8-10 weeks.

He hurt the tendon during an off-ice workout. 

"It was good to see him," captain Zach Parise said. "Looks like he's walking around pretty well. I don't know what his schedule is, but hopefully he'll be skating on a regular basis pretty soon."

Zajac surpassed Ken Daneyko to become the Devils' all-time ironman last season and extended his consecutive games-played streak to 401.

That run ended on opening night, but Zajac is taking strides toward hopefully starting a new one soon.

"[I'm] just kind of twirling around, getting used to being on skates again," said Zajac, who skated last Thursday. "It’s all baby steps, you can’t just go right into it and start doing power skating."

For a player with Zajac's track record of durability, long-term injury is uncharted territory. Watching games from home hasn't been easy considering he hadn't missed one since Oct. 26, 2006.

"It definitely puts into perspective how much I enjoy the game, not being able to play right now," he said.

In one sense, Zajac still hasn't missed a game – he's caught every Devils broadcast.

"I’ve watched all the games so far, keeping tabs on everyone, still talking to a few guys," he said. "I want to be a part of this team, still. Any way I can get involved."

The Devils visit Winnipeg on Dec. 3. Zajac wasn't prepared to pinpoint any single game for a possible return.

"Too early to tell," he said. "Right now the plan is to go back to Winnipeg, finish with rehab, start skating a little more, and we’ll kind of take it on a week-by-week, day-by-day basis until I think I’m closer to be ready to be skating with the team."

One significant positive is that he's nearly pain-free and feels just about ready to skate more than once or twice a week.

"There’s not much pain, it’s more restricting than anything," he said. "It’s more tightness, still, that you have to work on. That’s the biggest concern, obviously, is to get the mobility back. But there’s no pain in the Achilles or anything like that, which is positive."

Peter DeBoer has had to get creative without Zajac or Jacob Josefson (collarbone), including trying Parise at center on the top line with Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson.

So maybe the coach was happier than most to have Zajac back in and around the dressing room.

"It was nice to see him," DeBoer said. "My last conversation with him was at the World Championships last May with Team Canada. I actually talked to him over the summer prior to his injury after I took the job. It’s nice to see him here, I think it’s nice that the guys see him here. He’s walking around, he’s been on the ice once already, so it’s a good sign and it shows that he’s getting closer."

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
K. Palmieri 82 30 27 3 57
A. Henrique 80 30 20 10 50
T. Zajac 74 14 28 3 42
M. Cammalleri 42 14 24 15 38
D. Severson 72 1 20 -8 21
R. Boucher 39 8 11 -13 19
D. Schlemko 67 6 13 -22 19
J. Moore 73 4 15 -12 19
A. Larsson 82 3 15 15 18
J. Blandisi 41 5 12 -14 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 27 25 6 .924 2.15
K. Kinkaid 9 9 1 .904 2.81
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