It appears that the Devils will be getting center Travis Zajac back a lot earlier than originally anticipated. He underwent surgery on August 17th to repair a torn pectoral muscle and was supposed to miss between four-to-six months. However, the team announced via Twitter that Zajac has been cleared to return to practice and that he should suit up sometime next week.
Zajac’s return would be a big boost for a New Jersey team that has been one of the more pleasant surprises in the early going this season. He has been one of their more consistent players in recent years that plays in all situations while routinely being above average at the faceoff dot.
Once cleared to return, the Devils will be an enviable team when it comes to their depth down the middle. 2017 top pick Nico Hischier has adapted nicely in his rookie campaign while Adam Henrique has skated as their other top-six center so far. Brian Boyle recently returned to the lineup after battling leukemia while Blake Coleman has handled the fourth line duties nicely. They also have Pavel Zacha who is out the outside looking in at a lineup spot at the moment plus Marcus Johansson (who can play all three forward positions) although he’s out with a concussion. When everyone is healthy, that’s one of the deeper groups in the league and that type of depth could potentially be used to make a move or two as we get closer to the trade deadline.
[Related: Devils Depth Chart from Roster Resource]
New Jersey also received good news regarding 2016 first rounder Michael McLeod. Andrew Gross of The Record notes that the 19-year-old has also been cleared to return to practice. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee back on October 12th. Head coach John Hynes acknowledged to Gross (Twitter link) that no decision has been made yet as to whether or not he will play with the Devils or be returned to his junior team, the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.