Devils Captain Andy Greene and fourth line specialist Vern Fiddler have rejoined their teammates for practice at the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota, providing a boost to a Devils team feeling confident about themselves after a 2-0-1 road trip through western Canada.
Greene, who has missed the Devils last five games due to an arm injury will be a welcomed addition to a defense that is starting to minimize their mistakes, and an inspired Cory Schneider.
New Jersey still finds itself in an uphill climb to make the playoffs, but that proposition looks a little bit brighter after back to back wins against Calgary and Vancouver.
Fiddler, who has been out of the lineup since December will be a big boost to the Devils bottom six and penalty kill will also help the Devils in the faceoff circle.
Greene and Fiddler are currently on the IR and may still need a few days to get back into game shape before returning to the lineup, but the Devils will have to make roster moves to fit their two veterans back into the lineup.
The obvious candidates are Karl Stollery and Blake Coleman who have done a commendable job since being called up from Albany on Tuesday.
A day after the Devils came away with a 2-1 victory against the Canucks, Travis Zajac’s teammates and coaches were still buzzing about the play Zajac made to break up a 2 on 1 and pass the puck up to Taylor Hall for Hall’s game winning goal.
“On the first rush, we turned it over,” Hall said. “It’s all Trav getting back there creating another turnover for us to get the puck back.”
“When you look at it, what he does for your team night in and night out, it doesn’t always wind up on the scoresheet,” Hynes said. “That play kind of typified who he is as a person and who he is as a player. That’s why he’s so important to our team.”
While Hall was named the Devils representative at the 2017 NHL All-Star game, there is a strong case to be made for Zajac to be there instead. Hall offers more “street cred” in NHL circles, but Zajac is rediscovering the form he showed playing with Zach Parise all those years ago.
The Winnipeg native has always been a great penalty killer and faceoff man for the Devils, but this season, his 28 points has him tied atop the Devils leader board with Hall, who has played nine fewer games.
Zajac is currently on pace for 52 points, which would be his highest since 2013-14 when he put up 48 points in 80 games.
The career Devil should at the very least be in the conversation for the Selke trophy this year. While his minus six on the year certainly would not be flattering to the voters, the Devils as a team that have a -28 goal differential on the season.
Zajac has made a commitment to stick with the Devils, when many of his teammates before him have either quit on the team or left in free agency, and for that, his value to the Devils should not be overlooked by the fan base.