Jamie Benn, Travis Zajac

Travis Zajac’s injury recovery window remains unclear; rehab could take up to six months

Initial reports indicated that underrated New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac’s Achilles tear would sideline him for about three months, which would mean that he might only miss a month or two of the 2011-12 season. It’s possible that still might be the case, but Tom Gulitti reports that Zajac’s window of recovery could be quite a bit murkier.

Zajac discussed the rehab process with players who suffered similar injuries and found that while some people take about three months to recover, other need four or even up to six months to return to action. The 26 year old forward seems like he’s going to take a measured approach to the situation, even if the top-heavy Devils could suffer significantly from losing their top pivot for an extended amount of time.

He discussed the injury situation and how hard it will be to sit back and watch training camp and other activities he once took for granted in his earlier years.

“It hasn’t really sunk in too much yet that I won’t be there for camp and I won’t be around for exhibition (games) and even the start of the season,” Zajac said this afternoon in his first interview since he was injured. “I think once I get to Jersey and see some guys playing then it will be a lot tougher. That I’m away from it now is probably a good thing because I know if I was around the rink right now I would probably be pushing myself to do something and trying to get back quicker than I probably should.”


“It depends on how hard I push it and how my body reacts to everything,” he said. “From what I hear, that (taking four to six months) could happen, but, hopefully, I’m on the lower end of the time frame. We’ll see. I’m definitely not going to rush back and ruin the rest of the year by coming back too early.”

Hopefully Zajac backs up his words about being careful, because it will be unusual for the center to miss being in the lineup. He played all 82 regular season games during the last four seasons and played in 80 contests during his rookie year in 2006-07. After putting up 62 points in 07-08 and 67 in 09-10, Zajac is probably eager to show that his disappointing 10-11 season (13 goals and 44 points) was an unusual down year.

That eagerness could be dangerous if he doesn’t use the right amount of caution, though.

(H/T to Rotoworld.)

After years of hype, McDavid to play first NHL game

Connor McDavid
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The hype surrounding Connor McDavid couldn’t be much greater, but finally expectations will start to give way to results.

The NHL career that’s been talked about for years will begin tonight when his Edmonton Oilers face St. Louis.

“It’s something that you dream of for so long,” McDavid told NHL.com. “The draft is one thing, but to finally be in this situation is another, so I’m really excited. It’s been a long road; it’s been a lot of hard work. I think a lot of guys’ stories are different in how they get here, but the one common theme is hard work and my story is not any different that way.”

McDavid has transformed the Oilers with his mere presence. Its breathed fresh optimism into a city that have watched this team struggle in its efforts to dig out of the NHL basement. One also has to wonder if Peter Chiarelli would be the team’s new general manager and Todd McLellan its new head coach if Edmonton hadn’t won the draft lottery.

But where will he lead Edmonton? Will he be just the sixth 70-point rookie of the salary cap era? Will he struggle out of the gate, putting the hype into question? Perhaps he’ll draw comparisons to Steven Stamkos, who had a modest rookie campaign by the standards of a highly regarded top pick, but has nevertheless gone on to become a superstar.

That would surprise Stamkos as the Lightning captain feels McDavid is better than he is currently. Just further proof that those lofty expectations are coming from all sides.

“You don’t want to put too much weight on his shoulders; he’s an 18-year-old kid,” Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. “I don’t care how good he is or how good he’ll be, it’s a lot to shoulder if you’re supposed to be the guy and you’re the only guy. Fortunately we have a lot of high-pedigree players that are high picks who have gone through similar situations that he’s going through.”

Edmonton certainly has no shortage of first overall picks, but none as highly regarded as McDavid. But then, few ever are.

Related: There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

Connor McDavid
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Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per NHL.com. “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”