Zajac "tough to ease in"

December, 16, 2011
12/16/11
11:47
AM ET
The much-anticipated return of top center Travis Zajac has finally arrived, but with the relief also comes a unique challenge to Devils coach Pete DeBoer.

DeBoer admitted he'll have a hard time refraining from using the talented 26-year-old pivot as much as he'd like.

"He's a tough guy to ease in because he does so many things well," DeBoer said after the Devils morning skate Thursday. "But especially being in a back-to-back situation, we're going to try to monitor that."

In his first game back since missing four months with an offseason Achilles injury, Zajac will skate on the third line between left wing Mattias Tedenby and David Clarkson.

DeBoer isn't exactly sure how that will translate in ice time, but he said he won't be using him for 20 minutes in his season debut.

When jokingly asked if 19 was a possibility, DeBoer chuckled.

"We'll see what easing in means."

After missing the first 30 games of the season, Zajac said he can't wait to get back on the ice.

"I tried to get to bed early but I still have some nerves flowing a little bit," he said. "Definitely excited to get going."

Zajac will have to wait a bit longer than usual -- puck drop is one hour later than usual because of Friday's pre-game ceremony to retire Scott Niedermayer's No. 27. More on that later...

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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