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The Z-Factor

Healthy Travis Zajac will be key piece for 2012-13

Wednesday, 08.01.2012 / 11:48 AM / Features
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The Z-Factor




New Jersey Devils fans must be relieved when they think about how much better off their team will be with its No. 1 center, Travis Zajac, in the lineup for a full season.

Zajac missed 67 regular-season games and the team still qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There's no question having the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder in the lineup from the get-go will go a long way in helping the Devils not only qualify, but potentially solidify home-ice advantage in the opening rounds. As the sixth seed last spring, the Devils were forced to win their opening three rounds in the Eastern Conference without the benefit of home-ice advantage.

"If any team would miss their best centerman, it hurts," Ilya Kovalchuk told reporters last season. "We were missing him for almost all year long. Then he came back and gave us a lot of jump. He scores big goals."

After posting two goals and six points in 15 regular-season games, Zajac made up for lost time in the playoffs by connecting for seven goals and 14 points while averaging 20:28 of ice time in 24 games.

He scored the overtime winner in Game 6 against Florida in the first round to keep New Jersey's season alive. Zajac was also the team's best on faceoffs, winning 54.2 percent of his draws on a League-leading 448 chances in the postseason.

He gives the Devils veteran experience and was a tremendous help to Calder Trophy candidate Adam Henrique on the team's top line.

"Getting him back, he makes our team that much deeper," Henrique said. "Obviously not having him for the majority of the year was tough. He's one of our leaders. He's one of our best players. He's a guy that we rely on in big situations."

Zajac's strong two-way game is further evidenced by his 13 takeaways and 35 hits in the playoffs. Zajac spent close to two minutes per game on the penalty kill and more than three minutes per game on the power play during New Jersey's run in the playoffs.

"I think he was probably the biggest acquisition we could have made after the trade deadline without having to get rid of anybody," Henrique said. "He was a huge part of why we had success."

"I love playing and practicing with him because he's so smart in both ends and he works his butt off, but he's not a flashy guy," Patrik Elias added. "He does his job. He's got great hockey sense, great skills. He's strong. He's not going to go out and hit anybody all that hard or anything like that, but he's so annoying to play against."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale

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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

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