Travis Zajac

Devils’ iron man Travis Zajac to miss three months after suffering torn Achilles tendon

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Perhaps it’s time for Devils players to be put in bubble wrap when doing summer workouts to prepare for the season. Last summer, Zach Parise initially injured his knee preparing for training camp, an injury he’d ignore and try to battle through but ultimately needed surgery on to fix, killing most of his 2010-2011 season.

This summer it’s Travis Zajac being bitten by the injury bug as he tore his left Achilles tendon doing offseason workouts and had surgery to repair it on today knocking the Devils top centerman out for at least the next 8-10 weeks.

Zajac was set to play once again as the Devils #1 center and work with Parise just like how they always did, but with Zajac’s injury that reunion will take a little while. As Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told Fire & Ice’s Tom Gulitti, Zajac’s road to getting back on the ice is going to be a bit longer than what the Devils website claims.

Lamoriello said Zajac’s recovery will take “three months” from today.

Zajac, who lives in his hometown of Winnipeg in the off-season, tore his Achilles while doing plyometrics during an off-ice training session on Wednesday.

“It was repaired this morning at 9:30 in Winnipeg,” Lamoriello said. “It was a success—a simple operation. It’s just timing and healing.”

Lamoriello said the surgery was conducted by a doctor in Winnipeg that the team is familiar with.

“We know the doctor up there and we had a conference call with our medical people with Travis and everyone on the phone,” Lamoriello said. “We made a decision that he is there (so do the surgery there). MRIs were taken, all the proper preparation prior. We were totally comfortable with the doctor that did it, so it was successful and now it’s just a healing process.”

Zajac had played in 401 consecutive games for the Devils, setting a team record in the process, but that’s all done now. The Devils will have to figure out what they’re going to do in the meantime with Zajac set to miss the start of the season. While it’s not ideal, at least Zajac will be back early enough into the season so as to not to totally submarine their season from the get-go. That said, the Devils’ other options up the middle aren’t exactly appealing or overly experienced.

The Devils have guys like Dainius Zubrus, David Steckel, Jacob Josefson, and Rod Pelley that can line up at center but their best bet is likely going to be Patrik Elias. Elias is normally a better fit on the wing, but with the Devils having more than enough options at his natural left wing, putting him back at center where he’s a faceoff liability might help the offense click better, especially with Parise back at full speed.

It’ll be just a short term fix and coach Peter DeBoer will work things out in training camp, but starting off a season that’s not even into training camp yet like this gives everyone in New Jersey a reason to be nervous.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 59 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

ST PAUL, MN - MAY 6: Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck against Zach Parise #11 and Jason Pominville #29 of the Minnesota Wild during the first period in Game Three of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 6, 2014 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Price didn’t just play for Habs; he made the difference vs. Rangers

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It’s one thing for Carey Price to shake off that Paul Byron shot in warm-ups. And, honestly, that bump from Shea Weber during the game. But to play like, well, Carey Price? That would be something else.

Well, you probably saw this one coming … but Price had some absolutely great moments against the New York Rangers in an eventual 3-2 shootout win.

He was the main difference-maker, although it must be said that there’s some comic relief in Byron scoring the shootout-winner.

Price vs. Rick Nash felt like a subplot of the overall story.

On one occasion, Price made a resounding stop on a Nash breakaway:

It was quite the night for the aging power forward, however, as he nailed his other opportunity.

Some might be a little sad that Nash vs. Price didn’t go against each other in the shootout, but hey, maybe the two teams could save that for next time?

The Canadiens needed this win more than the Rangers. The Ottawa Senators actually briefly went ahead for first place in the Atlantic Division, but now Montreal has 72 points to Ottawa’s 70 … while the Sens hold two games in hand.

Similar tweets might end up being relevant, however. Though betting against Price is also a dicey proposition.