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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
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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 50 31 15 4 163 132 66
2 MTL 47 31 13 3 127 108 65
3 NYI 48 32 15 1 157 135 65
4 DET 49 28 12 9 145 128 65
5 PIT 48 27 13 8 143 124 62
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 BOS 49 26 16 7 131 123 59
8 NYR 46 27 15 4 135 111 58
9 FLA 46 21 15 10 114 129 52
10 PHI 50 21 22 7 139 151 49
11 TOR 50 22 24 4 144 155 48
12 OTT 47 19 19 9 129 134 47
13 CBJ 47 21 23 3 119 148 45
14 NJD 48 18 22 8 109 135 44
15 CAR 47 17 25 5 102 122 39
16 BUF 48 14 31 3 90 171 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Henrique 41 10 16 -2 26
J. Jagr 44 9 16 -11 25
M. Cammalleri 36 15 6 -3 21
P. Elias 38 6 15 -13 21
M. Zidlicky 48 4 16 -8 20
M. Ryder 42 6 12 -2 18
T. Zajac 40 8 8 -6 16
S. Gomez 24 4 12 -6 16
S. Bernier 33 6 7 1 13
M. Havlat 30 5 8 -9 13
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 17 19 4 .921 2.37
K. Kinkaid 1 3 3 .913 2.54