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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Zajac rolls with the punches

Devils centre takes life in stride, hopes for best

Posted: 10/6/2012 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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One of the reasons Travis Zajac has turned out to be such a good pro is that he knows the right time to just grin and bear it.

An Achilles tendon tear plus surgery last season? No problem. Just take the appropriate amount of recovery time, even if it was most of the regular season, and then help your New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup final.

A flight from Phoenix back to his hometown of Winnipeg this week? Not too fussy about that snow flying around in early October, but there are worse things in life.

Speaking of, how about Zajac's livelihood being put on hold by the NHL lockout that has now cancelled the first two weeks of the NHL season?

He's not entirely happy about it but there was no tantrum about it when he showed up to skate and work out with the local NHLers Friday at the MTS Iceplex.

"Obviously we kind of saw that coming, with hearing nothing really came out of the meetings between the NHL and the PA," Zajac said Friday. "We kind of knew that was going to be the next step. It's part of the process.

"I still like our proposal, that it's trying to fix the problems with the league right now. Hopefully the NHL and owners can see that and jump on board."

The problems seem to be recurring ones, Zajac said, even if he wasn't part of the union when the last lockout went into play in the fall of 2004.

"I wasn't around for it but I remember it, the NHL coming out and saying that they've fixed the problem, that there's a new partnership between the PA and the NHL and it was great for the fans," Zajac said. "You remember hearing that now here we are again at this point. And obviously nothing... the deal the owners created hasn't fixed anything.

"It's no surprise that we're here again. Hopefully this time we can get it right."

In the interim, the 27-year-old centre said he's here and will continue to work out with several Winnipeg Jets, Ryan Reaves of the St. Louis Blues and free agent Eric Fehr at the Iceplex.

Europe might be an option for him, but down the road.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't (thinking about it)," Zajac said. "But I'm still hanging around; I have some optimism about things starting eventually here and hopefully in the next couple of weeks or a month things can get done."

That the NHL regular season won't start is troublesome for the Devils, in his opinion.

"I think it definitely hurts us," he said. "We're in an area where there's tons of sports, the Yankees, the Nets, the Knicks, football. All these teams are in competition for fans and it definitely hurts us coming off a successful season like we had.

"It's tough to see but hopefully we have great fans who stick behind us and love the game and love coming and watching us play and supporting us. Hopefully we can get this resolved for them."

Zajac said he's less worried about his hometown, where the Jets were a smash hit -- despite their out-of-the-playoffs record -- last season.

"They waited a long time for them to get this team back here," he said. "To have the lockout now, it definitely hurts. But they've waited a long time and I'm sure ... I saw the support last year they gave this team and they'll be back."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 6, 2012 C7

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