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Zajac aims to improve for 2013-14

Thursday, 09.12.2013 / 6:20 PM / News
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Zajac aims to improve for 2013-14



NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac would like to put last season in the rear-view mirror.

During the opening day of on-ice activity at the team's training camp at AmeriHealth Pavilion on Thursday, the 28-year-old had no choice as coach Peter DeBoer had him alongside two of the finest Czech players to ever lace on the blades in the NHL -- Jaromir Jagr and Patrik Elias.

"They certainly are creative," Zajac said. "I think when you're playing with those guys, it's about controlling the puck. They're going to make plays and get into the open, so as a center you have to find holes and create some space for them with your speed because they'll find those plays that not too many players can make."

Certainly, Zajac would like to be part of that playmaking scheme this season after producing just seven goals and 20 points in the shortened 48-game regular-season in 2012-13. He's about to begin the first year of a new eight-year deal worth $46 million, so the motivation is there to begin the season strong.

"As a team we played well but just couldn't score goals, and that was throughout the lineup, but it's hard to say, I felt like I played good most of the season but that happens," he said. "You control what you can control. I felt I improved on some things; my faceoffs were better, but there's still a lot to work on.

"I know what I have to do to be successful and what the coaches expect in me, so I have to worry about that and do what I do best … that's play both ends of the ice and make sure I'm accountable and contribute offensively."

Two seasons ago, Zajac was sidelined by injury for over half the season yet the team persevered to not only qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs but reach the Final before losing to the Los Angeles Kings in six games. He acknowledged that the injury he sustained did not limit him last season.

"The injury had nothing to do with it," he said. "Obviously it wasn't statistically the season I wanted, but I felt good on the ice and I think I improved in some areas. I had another full summer to work on things. Last season is in the past and I'm just excited to work on this year and to get going."

The team needs the Winnipeg native to regain his form from 2008-09 and 2009-10 when he posted at least 20 goals and 60-plus points in each of those seasons. One area that DeBoer needn't concern himself with is Zajac's ability on faceoffs. He has ranked among the top two players on the team in faceoff winning percentage in five of the last six seasons -- the only time he didn't place was his injury-plagued 2011-12 campaign.

Zajac, who led the team with a 57.4 faceoff winning percentage last year, likes the look of this year's team. Adjusting to the loss of Ilya Kovalchuk, who announced his NHL retirement in July, will be tough, but Zajac is confident the Devils will get the job done.

"When you lose a guy like that, it's disappointing just because of how dynamic he was and the type of player he was," Zajac said. "There aren't too many players like that in the NHL. But this organization has always been about winning as a team. I don't think it's going to fall on one or two guys this year, it's going to fall on four lines, six defenders; we'll roll lines and wear teams down. That's what we've always been about and I don't see it changing this year."

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 PIT 30 20 6 4 98 71 44
2 TBL 33 20 10 3 110 87 43
3 NYI 31 21 10 0 99 89 42
4 MTL 32 20 10 2 87 80 42
5 DET 32 17 7 8 92 80 42
6 TOR 31 19 9 3 109 87 41
7 NYR 29 15 10 4 89 79 34
8 FLA 29 13 8 8 66 75 34
9 WSH 30 14 10 6 86 81 34
10 BOS 31 15 13 3 78 81 33
11 OTT 30 12 12 6 80 86 30
12 CBJ 30 13 15 2 72 95 28
13 NJD 32 11 15 6 74 94 28
14 BUF 32 13 17 2 62 100 28
15 PHI 30 11 14 5 80 90 27
16 CAR 30 8 19 3 62 87 19

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 31 5 15 -8 20
A. Henrique 25 8 10 2 18
M. Zidlicky 32 4 13 -4 17
M. Cammalleri 23 11 4 0 15
M. Ryder 31 4 10 -1 14
D. Severson 32 4 8 -4 12
P. Elias 26 3 9 -12 12
E. Gelinas 25 4 6 4 10
T. Zajac 24 4 4 -3 8
S. Bernier 21 2 6 3 8
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
K. Kinkaid 0 1 2 .942 1.71
C. Schneider 11 14 3 .916 2.61