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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

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 PIT 34 22 7 5 108 80 49
2 NYI 34 23 11 0 105 94 46
3 MTL 35 22 11 2 95 84 46
4 TBL 36 21 11 4 117 96 46
5 DET 35 18 8 9 100 87 45
6 TOR 35 20 12 3 118 102 43
7 NYR 32 18 10 4 97 83 40
8 WSH 34 17 11 6 99 90 40
9 BOS 35 18 14 3 91 91 39
10 FLA 32 15 9 8 73 82 38
11 PHI 34 14 14 6 97 101 34
12 OTT 34 14 14 6 90 94 34
13 CBJ 33 14 16 3 80 107 31
14 NJD 36 12 17 7 78 104 31
15 BUF 35 13 19 3 69 115 29
16 CAR 34 10 20 4 70 93 24

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Henrique 29 9 11 0 20
J. Jagr 35 5 15 -12 20
M. Zidlicky 36 4 13 -5 17
M. Cammalleri 24 11 4 -1 15
M. Ryder 34 4 10 -1 14
P. Elias 29 4 9 -16 13
D. Severson 32 4 8 -4 12
E. Gelinas 29 4 6 2 10
S. Bernier 25 2 7 4 9
A. Greene 36 0 9 -2 9
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
K. Kinkaid 1 1 2 .939 1.75
C. Schneider 11 16 4 .917 2.51