Zajac centering top line

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
11:50
AM ET
Travis Zajac is back where the Devils envisioned him before an off-season injury derailed almost his entire 2011-12 campaign.

The 26-year-old forward, who scored the game-winning shootout goal against Chicago Tuesday, will center captain Zach Parise and star sniper Ilya Kovalchuk Thursday against the Bolts. With Zajac's promotion, Devils coach Pete DeBoer will keep Patrik Elias' line intact and drop rookie center Adam Henrique down between Alexei Ponikarovsky and David Clarkson on the third line.

"We're looking for combinations that can work, that I can trust," DeBoer said. 'I think it's natural that [with ] Travis' history playing with both [Kovalchuk] and [Parise] that we would get to this point once he got back."

It does not appear that Zajac is quite ready to handle the minutes of this two cohorts, however. DeBoer said he'll have to manage his ice time and limit his special teams play. In ten games since returning from an August Achilles injury (eight since his season debut in December and two in his second return), Zajac has averaged 16:49.

"He's a good fit for those guys. The minutes are going to be something I'll have to monitor," DeBoer said. "I think we can do both and still manage his minutes until he gets back to 100%."

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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