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Zajac excited to be back with the team

Practices for the first time in 2011-12

Wednesday, 12.7.2011 / 4:43 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Zajac excited to be back with the team

Travis Zajac returned to practice Wednesday, marking the first time the Devils’ top center has skated with the team since offseason surgery on his Achilles tendon.

“I feel great,” a smiling Zajac said following a long on-ice session. “It’s nice to be back here with the guys.”

Zajac has no restrictions on what he can do on the ice. He took part in full-speed drills, including one-on-one battles.

“The legs felt great,” he said. “I knew going on the ice that wouldn’t be my concern. It was more the timing, the hands, thinking and moving at the same time with the puck. That’s what I was worried about and that’s what I’ll still have to get down. The legs felt great.”

He reported no pain in the Achilles, which was repaired on Aug. 18.

“It’s a lot of work, but it went by quick,” Zajac said. “Obviously I had a lot of people helping me along the way, invested a lot of time in me to try and get me back quicker. I’ve been in good hands everywhere I’ve been and I’ve had a lot of help to get to this point.”

The Devils’ all-time ironman, Zajac had appeared in 401 consecutive games before getting injured during a summer workout.

“It feels like an eternity since I’ve been a part of this team, so it’s nice to get out there and skate with the guys and have some fun, and get back to work,” he said.

Zajac wore a green jersey with Rod Pelley and was not assigned to a regular line. He had been back in New Jersey skating on his own for the past two weeks.

Devils’ President/CEO/GM Lou Lamoriello said Zajac will not play this week when the team hosts Ottawa and Montreal, and probably will not return for next week’s Monday-Tuesday back-to-back in Tampa Bay and Florida.

That leaves Friday, Dec. 16 as a possibility. The Devils will retire Scott Niedermayer’s No. 27 that night before hosting Dallas.

“Right now he’s certainly been on schedule with everything he’s done, as you see he’s in practice today,” Lamoriello said. “We’ll see how he sustains a full practice and where he’s at. We’ll reevaluate him every day and we’ll put a target on this with how he feels.” 

Coach Peter DeBoer liked what he saw from his centerman in his first team practice.

“It’s nice to have him back out,” DeBoer said. “He jumped in all the drills, there was really no hesitation on his part and really no restrictions on what we can do with him, so that’s a good sign.”

DeBoer hasn’t had Zajac at his disposal this season, but knows plenty about his two-way versatility, responsible play and scoring touch.

“Another guy that’s going to help us in every situation: on the power play, on the penalty kill, 5-on-5, with the lead,” he said. “I think he’s going to give us scoring depth whether he’s out there with Kovalchuk and Parise or whether it’s somewhere else. He makes us a much better team.”

DeBoer and Zajac do have a history together, having worked together as part of Team Canada at last year’s World Championship.

“It was good to work with him there,” said the coach. “I actually ran the penalty kill and his was a big part of that. He was great to work with, so I’m pretty familiar with him after spending three weeks with him over there.”

Notes and quotes
Lamoriello updated the status of Jacob Josefson (clavicle), who has been out since Oct. 21.

“He’s been cleared to skate and he’s working out and getting better, but he’s a ways,” Lamoriello said.

Josefson’s recovery is on schedule.

“Everything has been positive,” Lamoriello said. “There hasn’t been any setbacks up to this point.”

Cam Janssen (chest contusion) did not practice. He was injured Saturday in Winnipeg and did not play in Tuesday's 3-2 overtime win at Toronto.