What Does Travis Zajac's Return Mean to the New Jersey Devils?

Roman UschakCorrespondent IDecember 20, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 09: Travis Zajac #19 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on April 9, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Jonathan Klein/Getty Images)
Jonathan Klein/Getty Images

He's back.

After missing the Devils' first 30 games this season due to offseason surgery on a torn Achilles tendon, Travis Zajac returned to the lineup on Dec. 16 in New Jersey's 6-3 win over Dallas on Scott Niedermayer Night in Newark.

The former University of North Dakota star had three shots on goal and was a minus-two defensively against the Stars at the Prudential Center on Friday evening—but that can be forgiven, as he's almost three full months behind almost everybody else on the Devils roster.

"I felt better as the game went on," said Zajac at nj.com afterwards. "I think I was a little tentative in the first. I think that's just human nature coming back from an injury."

Although he's still getting up to game speed, the Winnipeg native (who missed the Devils' first trip to his hometown earlier this year) gives the Devils another weapon up front along with Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora and the surprising Adam Henrique.

The 6'3", 195-pound Zajac will also help the Devils up the middle of the ice and on faceoffs, being a natural center, and could also aid an excellent penalty-killing unit that already tops the NHL. More importantly, he should boost an ailing power-play unit that ranks in the bottom quarter of the league.

In 408 career NHL games through the end of last season, Zajac had tallied 89 goals and 160 assists for 249 points. He had 13 goals and 31 assists for 44 points last season, one year after posting personal bests of 25-42—67 in 2009-10.

He had played in a Devils' record 401 consecutive games before being sidelined to start this season, but should definitely be back to form by the time the Devils visit Winnipeg again on Jan. 14.