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DeBoer pleased with early returns from Devils

by Mike G. Morreale
NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer said he's happy with the identity of his team at the quarter mark of the season.
If that's the case, he should be ecstatic in a couple weeks when top-line center Travis Zajac makes his anticipated return from an offseason injury that has sidelined him all year.
According to Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, Zajac skated on his own on Tuesday and Wednesday in New Jersey and could begin practicing with the team in as many as two weeks.
"I wanted him at Thanksgiving," DeBoer laughed when asked if having Zajac back in the lineup would be a nice Christmas gift.
"Still, it was nice to see him [Tuesday]. I got a chance to sit and talk to him, and he's excited and in a great place mentally. The light is at the end of the tunnel. It's good that he's around the team and practicing … good for the guys to see him. He's a key piece here, obviously."
DeBoer should have defenseman Anton Volchenkov in the lineup for Wednesday's matchup against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Volchenkov sported several stitches on his upper lip after having to leave Monday's loss to the Florida Panthers following a hit to the face from the Panthers Shawn Matthias.
The Devils recalled center Tim Sestito from their American Hockey League affiliate in Albany on Wednesday and the 27-year-old forward will be inserted into the lineup against the Blue Jackets. It will be Sestito's 2011-12 debut with the Devils.
"I'm more comfortable now," Sestito told "I've been up and down a few times and it's an opportunity you have to take advantage of … help your team. As long as you're playing hard, hopefully good things happen."
Sestito was skating on the fourth line with Mattias Tedenby and Cam Janssen during the team's morning skate.
"I'm hoping he can provide some energy," DeBoer said of Sestito. "We're coming off a five-game road trip and I think that moving guys in and out on the third and fourth lines gives us a spark at different times. This is one of those times."
After sitting out as a healthy scratch against the Panthers, wing Nick Palmieri (3 goals, 6 points, minus-5 rating) will also be re-inserted into Wednesday's lineup.
Here were the line combinations for the Devils during morning warmups:
Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Nick Palmieri - Ryan Carter - David Clarkson
Mattias Tedenby - Tim Sestito - Cam Janssen
Andy Greene - Adam Larsson
Henrik Tallinder - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Anton Volchenkov
Martin Brodeur will make his fourth straight start between the pipes.
"It's always nice to roll them over [and get right back in net following a loss]," Brodeur told "That's how you go through your ups and downs; you can deal with it a little easier."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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