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Devils are the center of his universe

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Devils are the center of his universe

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=e...2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2

Monday, September 18, 2006

By TOM GULITTI

STAFF WRITER

LOWELL, Mass. -- The Devils are trying to get a good look at Travis Zajac, which fits in nicely with his plans.

Zajac, the Devils' first-round selection, 20th overall, in the 2004 draft, has high aspirations in his first NHL training camp. He wants to play in New Jersey this season.

"Absolutely," said Zajac, who played well but didn't manage to get on the score sheet in the Devils' preseason opener, a 5-0 win over the Boston Bruins on Sunday afternoon at Tsongas Arena. "Everyone's focus coming into camp is to try to win a spot with the big club. That was my focus coming in here for sure."

The Devils appear to be giving him a chance to do that. On Sunday, Zajac centered a line with Patrik Elias on his left wing and Jamie Langenbrunner on his right.

"It's pretty easy to play with those two guys," Zajac said. "They see the ice well and they help me out all over the ice. Any time you get to play with those two guys, you try to take advantage of it. You want to do your best and try to make a statement that you can play there."

Zajac, a 21-year-old Winnipeg native, saw extensive time on the power play -- the Devils scored four times on 11 man-advantage opportunities -- and on the penalty kill, drew two power plays and finished with three shots on goal.

"I thought he was very good," Devils coach Claude Julien said. "He seemed very composed and did some good things in some pressure situations. That's what you like to see, especially from a young player."

Elias has skated on the same line with Zajac since the start of training camp and has been impressed.

"He's a good young player," Elias said. "He's got good hands. It's his first camp, so everybody is nervous. He'll get more comfortable and he'll get even better."

Last season, Elias and Langenbrunner played with Sergei Brylin, but the Devils' cap problems might force them to trade Brylin and his $1.52 million salary. Even if Brylin stays, he might be a better fit at right wing on the checking line.

Zajac, who left the University of North Dakota after his sophomore season to sign with the Devils in April, would make that decision easier for the Devils if he shows he's ready to step into the NHL now.

"I'm not too worried about looking at statistics or depth charts," Zajac said. "Right now, I'm just trying to come here and win a spot. It's not going to be given to me, so I've got to come out here and compete each day."

Among the other young Devils to impress Sunday were right wing Barry Tallackson, who had a goal and an assist, and defenseman Johnny Oduya, who had three assists. Originally drafted 221st overall by Washington in 2001, Oduya played professionally in Sweden for five seasons before signing with the Devils as a free agent in July.

He might be destined to end up back in Lowell with the Devils' AHL affiliate, but had a nice debut Sunday.

"I'm patient enough to see I've got some things I've got to work on," he said. "I'm just trying to learn every day."

BRIEFS: Scott Gomez led the way offensively with a goal and two assists. ... Scott Clemmensen (11 saves) and Frank Doyle (15 saves) combined on the shutout. ... Although Lowell is the new home of the Devils' AHL affiliate, the crowd of 4,692 was predominately pro-Bruins.

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I havent heard a word about Rafalski. Did he even play?

Yes yes he did. Had a good game.

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Interesting. I hope Zajac plays tomorrow. I would guess the more the Devils play him the more confirmation we have that they are seriously looking at him as possibly making the NHL team.

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It would be nice if he is ready but I am not hopeful. Its still early in his career.

The price is right too.

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Last season, Elias and Langenbrunner played with Sergei Brylin, but the Devils' cap problems might force them to trade Brylin and his $1.52 million salary. Even if Brylin stays, he might be a better fit at right wing on the checking line.

Gulitti seems to be insinuating that Zajac could possibly fit as a second line center, but wouldn't it make more sense to put Parise there considering his experience. Thoughts from anyone that saw Zajac play Sunday?

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I didn't see Zajac play Sunday but Zajac is supposed to be responsible at both ends of the rink, he isn't offense only. Parise really didn't look that great defensively last season, players were able to beat him battles along the boards for most of the season and the center has to battle a lot along the boards in the defensive zone. So I can't really say anything about Zajac's play yet but Parise needed to improve his ability to battle a lot before he would be able to play center for the Devils. It is not impossible to do as a smaller guy like Gomez has become much better at it than he was early in his career.

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Gulitti seems to be insinuating that Zajac could possibly fit as a second line center, but wouldn't it make more sense to put Parise there considering his experience. Thoughts from anyone that saw Zajac play Sunday?

He looked pretty good in the first period. I did keep getting him and Burgfors confused numbers were too similar. I think he needs some more time. My opinion but I don't really know much. Parise looked great out there. Mind you the Bruins pretty much had the Baby Bs out there.

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I didn't see Zajac play Sunday but Zajac is supposed to be responsible at both ends of the rink, he isn't offense only. Parise really didn't look that great defensively last season, players were able to beat him battles along the boards for most of the season and the center has to battle a lot along the boards in the defensive zone. So I can't really say anything about Zajac's play yet but Parise needed to improve his ability to battle a lot before he would be able to play center for the Devils. It is not impossible to do as a smaller guy like Gomez has become much better at it than he was early in his career.

Well Parise is responsible at both ends of the rink - he is in fact very good defensively. However, he was really outmatched physicaly the first couple months of a season. He didn't have a ton of confidence either.

Zajac, with his size, could be at an advantage here (at least initially).

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I think Zajac, Papineau, and Rupp are fighting it out for that 2nd line spot - Brylin is as good as gone. Nor do I think Papineau or Rupp will get it.

Parise makes a lot more sense as a wing at this point in his career, plus if we move him, we don't have a top line LW.

Lou seems to have invited or signed way too many forwards, so I have no clue what he has in mind still.

Edited by Triumph

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Well Parise is responsible at both ends of the rink - he is in fact very good defensively. However, he was really outmatched physicaly the first couple months of a season. He didn't have a ton of confidence either.

Zajac, with his size, could be at an advantage here (at least initially).

Ya, I guess I wasn't clear enough. Parise wasn't bad at the mental part of defensive, he just didn't have the physical size/tools to do what was needed of him even though he was in the right places the majority of the time. He gave thought to defense and was trying, just hadn't picked up enough tricks yet to be an effective undersized center when it came to defense. Maybe he learned them in the off-season, we'll have to see.

Edited by Devils731

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I think since Zajac seems a little bigger than Parise, plus also pretty sound defensively, that he is given the chance at least to make the team as a 2nd line center. It also won't be as hard for him as the 2nd line center IMO because he'd most likely be sandwiched between two capable and competent offensive talents in Jamie and Patty, as opposed to Zach being expected to produce with the aid of Sarge in Marshall. Big talant difference, IMO.

I also think that Zach makes a nice LW, which is typically a position that's a little harder to fill than a RW, and works well with Gomer & Gio

Parise-Gomer-Gio

Elias-Zajac-Tallakson/Langs

Pando-Madden-Tallakson/Langs/Marshall

Janssen-Brylin/Rupp/Assmuffin/Marsh

Works for me.

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I think Zajac, Papineau, and Rupp are fighting it out for that 2nd line spot - Brylin is as good as gone. Nor do I think Papineau or Rupp will get it.

Parise makes a lot more sense as a wing at this point in his career, plus if we move him, we don't have a top line LW.

Lou seems to have invited or signed way too many forwards, so I have no clue what he has in mind still.

while i agree with you that none of these guys is a great answer for 2nd line center (and i think parise is much better suited as a LW), i can tell you that brylin certainly doesn't believe he's going anywhere and if what i'm told is to be believed, lou's pretty much told him the same. that's not to say that I don't think sarge is overpaid and a terrible choice for 2nd line center. the question becomes, do you take the safe choice in brylin/rupp and assure yourself of a below average 2nd line that should hold their own defensively and sort of be a wash most nights, or do you throw zajac out there and have him learn on the job and hope that he reaches his potential sooner rather than later? i'd go with zajac (provided he has a good camp) but it's a very anti-lou move.

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while i agree with you that none of these guys is a great answer for 2nd line center (and i think parise is much better suited as a LW), i can tell you that brylin certainly doesn't believe he's going anywhere and if what i'm told is to be believed, lou's pretty much told him the same. that's not to say that I don't think sarge is overpaid and a terrible choice for 2nd line center. the question becomes, do you take the safe choice in brylin/rupp and assure yourself of a below average 2nd line that should hold their own defensively and sort of be a wash most nights, or do you throw zajac out there and have him learn on the job and hope that he reaches his potential sooner rather than later? i'd go with zajac (provided he has a good camp) but it's a very anti-lou move.

I don't like possibly risking Zajac's future, but if he bombs in twenty games, it's not hard for New Jersey to bring in Jason Allison or Yanic Perreault to fill the void for a bit - if they're still available.

I just don't feel that Brylin brings enough to the table in the new NHL to merit his spot on this club - he's a LW primarily and his offense on the RW stinks, and at center he's below-average. I feel like he's lost a step, and this robs him of much of his effectiveness.

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I don't like possibly risking Zajac's future, but if he bombs in twenty games, it's not hard for New Jersey to bring in Jason Allison or Yanic Perreault to fill the void for a bit - if they're still available.

I just don't feel that Brylin brings enough to the table in the new NHL to merit his spot on this club - he's a LW primarily and his offense on the RW stinks, and at center he's below-average. I feel like he's lost a step, and this robs him of much of his effectiveness.

i don't disagree with you. he'll probably end up with about 25-30 points just by sort of being there and won't be a complete negative at any of the forward positions. that's his ceiling (like a utility player in baseball) while all the young guys (zajac, tallackson, hell maybe even ryznar) have considerably more potential. but i'm telling you the inside word (or as inside as i get with my sources) says that brylin has been told by lou that he's not going anywhere.

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i don't disagree with you. he'll probably end up with about 25-30 points just by sort of being there and won't be a complete negative at any of the forward positions. that's his ceiling (like a utility player in baseball) while all the young guys (zajac, tallackson, hell maybe even ryznar) have considerably more potential. but i'm telling you the inside word (or as inside as i get with my sources) says that brylin has been told by lou that he's not going anywhere.

If what you have heard is true, then Lou is truly turning into a sentimentalist in his old age. As a fan, I appreciate everything Sarge has meant to the team over the years and would love to find a way that they could keep him and still fit everyone in. But I'm supposed to think that way, I'm a fan. Lou is the one running the show. Unless he really knows that, on top of the $2.3M in LTIR he already has coming, the $2.2M he can get from sending McGillis to Lowell, one of either the M&M boys is coming off the cap, where does he think the $$$ is coming from????

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