Depth at Center: How Travis Zajac's Return Will Affect the Devils

Nicholas SteblenkoContributor IIIDecember 15, 2011

The key center returns for New Jersey, but where will he fit?
The key center returns for New Jersey, but where will he fit?Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

For a team that started off the 2010-11 season at a dreadful pace, the Devils could ill afford to lose a key piece of the puzzle to start the 2011-12 year off right.

Fortunately, Travis Zajac is returning to the lineup on Friday night for the New Jersey Devils and it couldn't have come at a better time.

The Devils are playing some good hockey as evidenced by their top scoring line of Kovalchuk, Parise and newcomer Adam Henrique. Now, New Jersey can add more depth with the return of Zajac.

It may take a few games to see where Travis will fit in as he will certainly have a little rust on his skates from the long lay off. When he catches up, he should fit in on one of the top two lines.

With the way the first group is playing, you can probably expect coach Pete DeBoer to keep riding the wave, placing Zajac on the second line with a combination of Elias, Zubrus and Sykora.

One thing the Devils have been doing well so far this season is attacking the opposing team in the offensive zone, a far cry from the traditional New Jersey trap made famous in the 90's by Jacques Lemaire.

Putting Zubrus on a third line with David Clarkson would keep the aggression in the mix, while allowing the first two lines to focus on scoring.

The almost healthy Devils will get to showcase Zajac's return on a historic night in New Jersey. Tomorrow night, the Devils will be retiring the jersey of Scott Niedermayer, one of the greatest defenseman to wear a sweater in New Jersey.

Drafted by the Devils in 1991, Niedermayer played alongside the likes of Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko and was a key component on each of New Jersey's three Stanley Cup winning teams.