Kovalchuk on Zajac’s impact: When Crosby came back, did Pittsburgh feel better?

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Down 2-0 in the Stanley Cup finals, the New Jersey Devils’ situation is getting desperate. Still, the fact that they’ve even made it this far is a huge accomplishment and Ilya Kovalchuk thinks Travis Zajac deserves quite a bit of credit for that.

“When Sidney Crosby came back for Pittsburgh, did they feel better? Obviously,” Kovalchuk said. “It’s the same thing for us. When you’re No. 1 center is coming back and we know he can be one of the top players in the League, it’s always big.”

You don’t usually hear of Zajac being compared to Crosby in any context. Zajac can’t hope to match him in terms of points-per-game, but Zajac’s late-season return certainly provided the Devils with a big boost.

“I love playing with him and practicing with him because he’s so smart in both ends and he works his butt off, but he’s not a flashy guy,” Patrik Elias said. “He does his job. He’s got great hockey sense, great skills. He’s strong. He’s not going to go out and hit anybody all that hard or anything like that, but he’s so annoying to play against, seriously.”

Zajac is tied for the team lead in goals, but he – like the vast majority of Devils players – has been unable to find the back of the net against the Los Angeles Kings in this series. He’s currently projected to play alongside Zach Parise and Kovalchuk in Game 3 on Monday.