Travis Zajac Draws in Against Dallas Friday

Updated: December 15, 2011 at 3:28 pm by Alexander Monaghan

According to Tom Gulliti of The Record, via Twitter, Travis Zajac will draw back into the lineup tomorrow against the Dallas Stars. The Winnipeg native and former 20th overall pick practiced on the third line this morning and is likely to play there tomorrow. For those wondering what happens to Adam Henrique, it appears the rookie’s job as top-line center is safe for now.

While there are no medical restrictions on the 26-year-old, Zajac could be held out of Saturday’s tilt against the Montreal Canadiens in order to give him some rest. Considering his last game came on April 10th of this year, fatigue may be a factor.

If you own him, make sure to slot him into your lineup. In deeper leagues he definitely deserves a look as he probably skates between Ilya Kovalchuk or Zach Parise within the upcoming weeks.

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After skating on his own for several weeks, Zajac returned to practice today. According to Rich Chere of NJ.com, coach Pete DeBoer feels confident that his top-line center will return before Christmas. Stay tuned for a further update.

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UPDATE 11/23/11: The last time we updated you on Travis Zajac, we noted that he should be back prior to Christmas. All reports since that last update have been more than encouraging as the Winnipeg native has skated for two consecutive days. It should only be a few weeks until Zajac gets back into practice.

When questioned, GM Lou Lamoriello had nothing but positive things to say about his top center’s recovery. From NJ.com:

“He has been released by the doctors. He is in town. He skated yesterday morning here and also this morning and will continue to do that for the next week and a half to two weeks. And if everything is on schedule as it has been, he’ll start practicing with the team in two weeks. Everything to this point has been exactly the way the doctors predicted it would be. He feels good but he’s still certainly not there. It’s going to take some conditioning both on the ice and off the ice to get him to where he can practice.”

Rich Chere of NJ.com would later mention that Zajac figures to be back in the lineup by Christmas, with a whole lot of hockey left to play in New Jersey. If you own Zajac, stay patient, the wait is almost over.

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UPDATE 11/5/11: It has been a long time since we last updated Travis Zajac owners. As of right now, the team’s top-line center continues to skate but is a while away from drawing back in. Tom Gulliti of The Record, via Twitter, announced this vague gem:

[Coach Pete] DeBoer said he expects Travis Zajac (Achilles) back “some time before Christmas. Could be in three or four weeks. Could be in five or six.”

As a model of consistency when healthy, number 19 should get back on the ice and remain there. Look for him to start with longtime linemate Zach Parise and for his return to spark the New Jersey Devils from the top down.

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UPDATED 9/10/11: Zajac could miss anywhere between three and six months according to a recent report from The Record. From Fire & Ice:

From his conversations, Zajac knows it’s a possible that his recovery could fall into the four to six-month range and is prepared for that. What he doesn’t want to do is risk a setback by trying to come back before he’s ready.

If Zajac misses three months, almost a third of the season would have passed. If he misses the full six months, he could probably not be counted on for more than 20 games played. You could choose to stash the 26-year-old away on your IR but remember to not overpay for him come draft day.

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Following 401 consecutive games played, the injury ninja has found New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac ‘s Achilles heel. News broke today that Zajac, the team’s first-line pivot over the last three seasons, will need three months to recover from a torn left Achilles tendon. The injury not only leaves a giant hole on the Devil’s top line but also limits our selection of sleeper centers — the 26-year-old only managed 13 goals and 44 points through all 82 games last season, a 23-point regression. In other words, Zajac could probably get picked at a much discounted price this season, but it now may not be THAT worth it.

That discounted price has now become a deep discount, and in all reality, it affects a few more players than Zajac himself.

Zajac likely slotted between Ilya Kovalchuk and Nick Palmieri, as they ended last season. If the team wanted to put all of their eggs in one basket then replace Palmieri with Zach Parise. That left Patrik Elias skating down the middle on the second unit with Jacob Josefsen and David Steckel rounding out the depth chart.

With the injury, something will need to change. While speculation is fun, we do have some added facts to make our guesses easier, courtesy of the Devil’s beat. From Tom Gulitti of The Record:

Lamoriello said he has no plans to sign another center now to replace Zajac or bring one in for training camp as a tryout.

“That’s why you have depth,” he said. “It will give somebody else an opportunity to come forward and see what they can do.”

So the options are internal. Not exactly the most promising news for a team looking to get back into the playoff picture. Considering they already shifted Elias back to the center position last season it becomes a bit less promising. Either Josefson moves up to the second line or Dainus Zubrus gets another shot at playing center would be my initial guess. Neither option seems particularly bullish for fantasy owners so a wait-and-see approach likely will help.

While Elias’ value could receive a boost, losing Zajac will hurt either Parise or Kovalchuk or both. In addition, the penalty kill will suffer as Zajac finished second to Elias in SHTOI, making life for a 39-year-old Martin Brodeur even more difficult. Should I mention that Zajac might also have problems regaining his top-speed following such an injury?

The Devils might be in for another rough year but keep an eye on some of the youngsters like Jacobsen, Palmieri, Mattias Tedenby and Adam Henrique as they all hold the potential to step up.

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