Devils will start year without Zajac

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- With a new coach and a new outlook after missing the playoffs for the first time since 1996, the New Jersey Devils seemed like a team to watch this upcoming season.

But that optimism took a bit of a hit this week.

Center Travis Zajac underwent successful surgery in Winnipeg, Man., to repair his left Achilles tendon, general manager Lou Lamoriello confirmed on Thursday. He will miss at least a month and a half of the season to recover from the injury, which occurred during an off-ice training session in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

Zajac had 13 goals and 44 points last season, as the Devils rallied from an awful start, but still fell short of the Eastern Conference postseason for the first time in 14 seasons and 15 years.

A 6-foot-3, 195-pound forward, who has scored 58 goals the past three seasons, Zajac was a big part of new coach Pete DeBoer's offensive philosophy, and was pegged for the top line. He may be replaced there, in the interim, by Dainius Zubrus or Patrik Elias.

New Jersey opens the season against Philadelphia in Newark on Oct. 8.