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Travis Zajac emerges as a leader after rocky season

New Jersey Devils v New York Rangers

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 09: Travis Zajac #19 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on April 9, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Jonathan Klein/Getty Images)

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Travis Zajac isn’t one of the big reasons why the New Jersey Devils made the playoffs in the first place. He couldn’t be. He was limited to just 15 regular season games because of his long road to recover from Achilles tendon surgery.

Still, he’s better now and helping the Devils when they need him the most. Through 17 playoff games, Zajac is tied with Zach Parise for the team lead in goals with seven.

“I knew how good a player he was,” Devils coach Pete DeBoer said of Zajac. I got the reports from previous year how important he was to the team. It obviously took him a while to get in the rhythm, but once he got going, you know, he’s been outstanding for us this playoff, all situations. I think it’s almost been a benefit he didn’t play 82 games. He’s fresh.”

Given how long a road it’s been for New Jersey, it must be nice to have a key player who has a little less mileage on him this season. Zajac ranks third in Devils’ forwards in ice time during their playoff run.

Zajac scored key goals in the Devils’ last two games. Thanks in part to his efforts, New Jersey has an opportunity to eliminate the New York Rangers on Friday and advance to the Stanley Cup finals.