Saturday, January 20, 2018
Sports

Zajac a hidden story for Devils

NEWARK, N.J. — Most of the talk about the Devils and their run to the Stanley Cup final against the Kings has focused on Martin Brodeur, Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Peter DeBoer.

The 40-year-old goaltender, the team's two big goal scorers and the new coach all have played major roles in getting the Devils back to the final a year after missing the playoffs.

The guy who tends to get lost in all the talk is Travis Zajac.

This was almost a lost season for New Jersey's No. 1 center. He tore an Achilles tendon in August, had surgery the next day and tried to come back in December. He lasted eight games before calling it quits.

Over the next two months, there were times he thought his season was over. The 27-year-old continued rehab and eventually came back in late March. It took him a couple of weeks to find his game but one can argue he has been the best player for the Devils in the postseason.

"He is the type of player who does a lot of things well, from the faceoff to the forechecking, taking the body," Brodeur said. "He does a lot of little things. … That's what you have to look at, and who he plays against every single shift, and that tells you a lot about them."

His statistics aren't shabby either. Zajac has seven goals — tied for the team high with Kovalchuk and Parise — and five assists. He also is on New Jersey's power play and kills off penalties. He is averaging more than 20 minutes a game, third among the teams' forwards.

Not bad for a player who got in only 15 regular-season games.

"Getting this far I'm sure it's enjoyable for everyone but it really is for me," Zajac said Monday after the Devils practiced for the first time since winning the Game 6 clincher of the East final against the Rangers on Friday night. "Playing this late in the season really makes me feel like I didn't miss the whole season. It's really a fun time to play hockey."

DeBoer, who was forced to use roughly 10 different centers this season searching for a replacement, said Zajac's contributions are immeasurable.

"We wouldn't be here without Travis," DeBoer said.

BRODEUR LEANS TOWARD RETURN: Brodeur indicated after practice that he is unlikely to retire after this season even if the Devils win the Stanley Cup. The 18-year veteran is slated to become a free agent at the end of the season. "You know, I can't say no. But I doubt it," Brodeur said of retirement, according to ESPN.com. "I'm really enjoying this. Regardless of what happens this series, we made a great step last year, and we've got a good team together, a good coaching staff, and it's fun, you know?"

Comments
Why free agency hasnít turned out fun (yet) for ex-Rays pitcher Alex Cobb

Why free agency hasnít turned out fun (yet) for ex-Rays pitcher Alex Cobb

RHP Alex Cobb never expected to be going into late January without knowing where he was going for spring training.The longtime Ray's first foray into free agency hasn't gone as planned, much like the 150-plus others waiting for something to give in a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Missing the Olympics a missed opportunity (and misstep) for NHL?

Missing the Olympics a missed opportunity (and misstep) for NHL?

One week from today, Tampa will be the center of the hockey world.The NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. Players will smile for the cameras. They'll put on a fantastic show. Maybe they'll catch a bead or two from a Gasparilla parade.But ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Fennelly: Lightning needs a reset on the road Ö pronto

Fennelly: Lightning needs a reset on the road Ö pronto

TAMPA — Vegas has left the building.Wasn't the Lightning just arranging place settings for next weekend's NHL All-Star Game party?With that in mind, I headed to the home dressing room at Amalie Arena late Thursday after the Lightning was manhan...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Saturdayís sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballWomen: La Salle at Rhode Island11 a.m.CBSSNPurdue at IowanoonESPNFlorida State at Virginia TechnoonESPN2; 1010-AMWichita State at HoustonnoonESPNUVillanova at ConnecticutnoonCBSSt. Johnís at GeorgetownnoonFS1Ohio State at Minne...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Golden Knights move within one point of Lightning for top spot in NHL

Golden Knights move within one point of Lightning for top spot in NHL

SUNRISE ó Aaron Ekblad scored 40 seconds into overtime to lift the Panthers to a 4-3 victory over the Golden Knights on Friday, spoiling Vegas coach Gerard Gallantís return to Florida. By gaining a point, Vegas moved within one point of the Lightning...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Well Humored ready to get back on a dirt track

OLDSMAR ó It is time for Well Humored to get dirty again.The WinStar Farm homebred makes her first start on the Tampa Bay Downs main track Saturday afternoon in the $50,000 Wayward Lass, one of three stakes events on the Skyway Festival Day 11-race p...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Star-struck Kyrgios stays cool on court

Star-struck Kyrgios stays cool on court

MELBOURNE, Australia ó With Will Smith in the crowd and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga across the net, Nick Kyrgios was in his element as the main attraction for a night at the Australian Open. Time to put on a show. One of his favorite actors ó Smith was making...
Updated: 12 hours ago

National Hoopfest: Berkeley Prep proves to be no pushover

TAMPA —  Berkeley Prep's four-game win streak came to end Friday.That was expected.The Buccaneers faced West Oaks Academy, an independent powerhouse from Orlando that plays a national schedule, during Friday's National Hoopfest tournament....
Updated: 12 hours ago

Sports in Brief

BaseballTebow gets another crack at making mets Tim Tebow has been invited by the Mets to spring training for a second straight season.The 30-year-old will begin his second year of attempting to reach the big leagues when spring training opens in Por...
Updated: 12 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Jan. 19

Fridayís scoreboardBoys soccerIndian Rocks Christian 2, Lakewood 1Lennard 3, Spoto 0Girls soccerPCAC Championship: Largo 3, Osceola 1Lennard 8, Spoto 0
Updated: 12 hours ago