The New Jersey Devils lost center Pavel Zacha to an upper-body injury against the Montreal Canadiens. Losing him could be costly if it lasts longer than it should.
Pavel Zacha is already skating on his own after he was injured against the Montreal Canadiens a week ago. However, it’s not all good news for the New Jersey Devils center. The team is heading for a four-game Western Conference road trip, and Zacha is not on the team plane.
The Devils have been very closed off when it comes to injuries all season long. Head coach John Hynes and GM Ray Shero don’t give timetables like other teams do. In fact, we don’t even know how Zacha got injured. He just didn’t show up on the bench during the third period of the Canadiens game, and that’s how we knew he was hurt.
That makes it hard to predict exactly what the Devils are facing in terms of a Zacha injury.
Let’s go forth predicting that Zacha will miss at least this entire Western Conference swing. Even if Travis Zajac is able to return healthy, the Devils look worse down the middle minus Zacha.
He will be replaced with either Brian Gibbons or Blake Coleman. They will likely center the third line and Zajac will move up to the second line.
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Zajac has been phenomenally better than he was when he first came back from his torn pectoral muscle, but it’s still a downgrade on that line based on fit. Zajac can win faceoffs and position his team to make plays, but Zacha is just a better fit with Kyle Palmieri. It remains to be seen who plays on the left wing, but right now it appears it could be Michael Grabner.
Zacha provides a certain threat that Zajac doesn’t right now. His impressive size and strength mixed with his speed fits much better with the skill most of the Devils forwards possess. Sure, he’s struggled on the score sheet, but he does more than light the lamp. Palmieri plays better when he’s paired with him. Miles Wood looked much better when he took over as his center. The second line was elevated.
Will Zacha’s injury ruin the Devils chance to win? Of course not. The Devils just beat the Nashville Predators, possibly the best team in the league, without Zacha or Zajac. Still, the Devils will have to work harder than ever to make it out of this trip, which ends coming back east to play the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road.
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