by David Pavlak on 03/28/12 at 11:37 AM ET
The New Jersey Devils and Chicago Blackhawks had a real defensive battle last night. Martin Brodeur played amazingly well considering his team was severely outshot in the game. With a 1-1 score, the game would need to be settled in a shootout. After just returning to the lineup the other game, Travis Zajac came out as the fifth shooter and snapped a shot over Corey Crawford to score the decisive goal. The two points tonight puts the Devils just four points out of securing a playoff spot.
“It’s been great,” Zajac said to Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “I felt like I haven’t sat out for most of the year, actually. The locker room, it’s a good group of guys in here. It’s easy to get along with everyone. So, that’s been easy. That’s been the easy part.”
Zajac offensive game has struggled a little bit since his return but considering the amount of time he was out it was to be expected.
“It’s getting there,” he said. “It’s still a little frustrating. Some parts of the game I don’t feel 100 percent on, but it’s going to come. I’ll just have to keep working in practice and keep my focus in games and improve. I’d like to do as much as possible. I have high expectations for myself. You have to. You can’t just be satisfied of going out there and playing. You have to be hungry and want to help.”
Head Coach Pete DeBoer expressed that he thought the fatigue may be getting to Zajac a little bit.
“I thought he hit a little bit of a fatigue wall today as the game went on, like a lot of our guys did,” DeBoer said. “I don’t think he’s back to where he needs to be yet, but even at 80 or 85 percent or whatever he would term himself at right now, he’s a big addition for us.”
Zajac finished the game with 15:56 TOI, 1 shot and a +/- -1.
No matter how you slice it, the reemergence of Zajac make the Devils a deeper and more complete team. If he is able to come back to 100 percent right around playoff time, the Devils will be looking to play spoiler throughout the playoffs. A first round matchup against the Panthers would be the Devils best bet, but with consistent goaltending from Martin Brodeur and the scoring capabilities of Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Zach Parise and Zajac, the Devils can easily make a case for themselves to be one of the teams to watch throughout the playoffs.
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