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Zajac back Friday to take on Dallas

Volchenkov also likely to return

Thursday, 12.15.2011 / 3:13 PM ET / 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







 

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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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