The New Jersey Devils are about to get a major boost in the face-off circle with the long awaited return of Travis Zajac to the line-up.
Zajac has missed all but eight games this season while recovering from off-season Achilles surgery, but is expected to be game ready any day and his return could prove to be the best pick-up of the season for New Jersey.
The Devils 2004 first-round draft has averaged 50 points a season during his first five years in the league and just like his teammates this far he could see a those numbers go up under first-year head coach Pete Deboer’s more wide open system. However with just eight games left in the season his prowess in the face-off dot could be what provides the Devils the biggest lift.
New Jersey ranks second-to-last in face-off percentage this season, winning a just 46.6% of the draws taken. Only the Calgary Flames at 45.8% are more pathetic from the circle. Just how badly do the Devils miss Zajac in the circle? Consider this – in the eight games he played in this season, New Jersey went 5-2-1 with Zajac winning 58.3% of his draws.
Since his arrival, Zajac has been the clubs top face-off man winning nearly 52% of the draws he takes a season. This skill alone makes him one of the most important members of the team in crunch time, especially come playoff time.
Chew on this little tidbit for a second, the Devils top two centers only win 46.25% of the face-off they take – Patrik Elias wins a mere 43.82% of his draws while Adam Henrique is slightly better at 48.65%.
New Jersey’s inability to consistently win draws has hurt them throughout the season, especially late in games. If they want to have any chance of making noise in the playoff they must be better in this area and Zajac is the perfect man for the job. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt if he scored a goal or two, here and there, but I guess that goes without saying.
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