NHL Playoffs 2012: Travis Zajac Proving His Worth to New Jersey Devils

Peter MillsContributor IIIApril 26, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 24:  Travis Zajac #19 of the New Jersey Devils celebrates after he scored the game-winning goal in overtime against the Florida Panthers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Prudential Center on April 24, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils won 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils faced a lot of different storylines following their team this season.

Fans watched excitedly as the team bounced back from its hideous 2010-11 season. They were excited to see Ilya Kovalchuk return to dominant form, as well as Zach Parise's return from injury and Adam Henrique's emergence as a rookie star.

Lost among those stories was the fact that the Devils' iron man, Travis Zajac, missed the vast majority of the season with lingering Achilles problems. His absence this season marked the first missed games for the 27-year-old since a two-game stint in October of his rookie year. Those two games were also the only games he'd ever missed.

Well, it would appear that the forced rest for Zack has left him with a lot of pent up energy, because he has come out guns blazing in this series. Zajac currently leads (or shares the lead of) the Devils in goals (three) and points (six). He has clearly re-established himself as the top-line center—kind of like a better, more talented Adam Henrique.

With all of the players mentioned above, it's easy to forget that Zajac spent years as a key member of the Devils' offense. He was a founding member of the Z-Z-Pops line, and he spent five straight seasons recording at least 13 goals and 20 assists, maxing out at 25 goals and 42 assists in 2010. He was also one of the first players to develop a strong chemistry with Captain Zach, along with Kovy when he arrived.

While Zajac's six points can't be too feared (it is, after all, just six points), it's a great sign that he's ready to play again. He wasn't able to do much with scattered playing time in 15 games this season, but what a difference the postseason can make. He's now pulling down 20-plus minutes every game, shooting over twenty percent and winning upwards of sixty-percent of faceoffs.

He'll never be a Nicklas Backstrom or a Jonathan Toews, but Zajac's play recently has reminded viewers that the Devils do have good offensive players past Parise/Kovy/Elias.

And, at least for this fan, Zajac's play seems like it could lead to a pretty amazing regular season—especially if his linemates (Kovy and Parise) are able to spend a whole season together.