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Zajac back Friday to take on Dallas

Volchenkov also likely to return

Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 3:13 PM / News
By Eric Marin
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Zajac back Friday to take on Dallas


 
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Travis Zajac finally returns to the lineup on Friday, when the Devils host the Dallas Stars.

Zajac, who will be making his season debut, is thrilled to be back. It's already set to be an unforgettable night at Prudential Center, with the Devils retiring Scott Niedermayer's No. 27 in a pregame ceremony.

“I’m definitely excited,” Zajac said. “A little anxious, but I think it’s in a good way. It’s been awhile since I’ve been around the guys in the locker room. It’s been awhile since I was able to pregame nap, too, so it’s definitely exciting.”

Zajac suffered the first significant injury of his career while working out in August, and needed surgery to repair his left Achilles tendon. Following rehab, he began practicing with the team on Dec. 7

“I feel like the game’s a little different than practice,” said Zajac. “A little more speed, a little more physical play, competitiveness. I think that’s the next step from practice and I feel good. I feel mentally and physically fit, and that’s the most important part. It’s exciting and I’m sure I’ll have a lot of adrenaline.”

The Devils’ franchise ironman, Zajac had appeared in 401 straight games before the setback. Zajac did represent Canada at the World Championship, but he hasn't played in an NHL game since April 10.

“The longest I’ve ever been off from hockey,” he said. “It’s both a good thing and a bad thing. I definitely had a break away from the game, and was able to mentally come back in a better mind frame and physically I’m right there.”

He's not the only one that’s excited. Thirty games into the season, coach Peter DeBoer will finally get his first look at one of his top pivots.

“It’s been a long road for him,” said DeBoer. “It’s nice to have him back.”

Zajac centered a line with Mattias Tedenby and Eric Boulton at Thursday’s practice. David Clarkson, normally the third-line right wing, did not skate because of a personal matter.

Zajac recently received some advice from Zach Parise, who missed much of last season following knee surgery. 

“On the plane ride home the other day, he gave me a little tip, just from him coming back last year, he said ‘You’re going to have a lot more time than you think out there,' " Zajac recalled. "I could see that. Even in practice, the first couple of days it felt like I was rushing passes and trying to get the puck off my stick as much as possible. It’s just about staying calm, staying confident and playing within yourself, not trying to do more than you need to.”

Anton Volchenkov (hand) skated in practice and is expected to play Friday after missing three games.

“He looks good, but again, we’ll see how he feels [Friday] morning,” DeBoer said.

Johan Hedberg is expected to start in net versus the Stars.

Practice lines:
Parise-Henrique-Kovalchuk
Sykora-Elias-Zubrus
Tedenby-Zajac-Boulton
Sestito-Carter-Janssen

Volchenkov-Larsson
Tallinder-Fayne
Salvador-Foster
Urbom-Taormina

Hedberg, Brodeur







 

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 82 24 43 16 67
P. Elias 65 18 35 -4 53
T. Zajac 80 18 30 3 48
A. Henrique 77 25 18 3 43
M. Zidlicky 81 12 30 -3 42
M. Ryder 82 18 16 -6 34
A. Greene 82 8 24 3 32
E. Gelinas 60 7 22 -3 29
D. Zubrus 82 13 13 1 26
R. Clowe 43 7 19 -10 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 16 15 12 .921 1.97
M. Brodeur 19 14 6 .901 2.51