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Darcy Zajac returns to practice

Last season, Darcy Zajac missed nine games.

He has yet to play nine games this season.

The Albany Devils forward has been out with a shoulder injury since a 2-1 shootout win at Norfolk on Oct. 19. He has played in just four of Albany’s 48 games so far this season.

Zajac has been skating for a couple of weeks but had his first practice with the team Thursday morning. He said Albany coach Rick Kowalsky’s belief in a late-March return sounds fair.

“That sounds pretty honest,” Zajac said. “That’s where we’re both coming at it, I think. It’s still day-to-day. One day, I’m feeling good, and the next day I could be a little sore. There’s still some healing going on, so you don’t want to rush it. This team’s been doing well without me, but I’m looking forward to coming back and helping this team finish that playoff push to keep the season rolling longer.”

“Today, we probably used him a little more than we wanted to, but we’re short a couple guys today,” Kowalsky said. “We made sure nobody was running into him out there, but I think he was certainly excited to get back into practice and involved. Injury-wise, I think it’s come along nicely and is going to be fine. I think the big thing is going to be getting him enough ice, especially with these three-in-threes and travel and stuff like that. It’s tough making sure there’s ice for everybody. During the week, we can push him hard, but the weekends, it’s going to be sporadic.”

For Zajac, skating without contact has to feel a little weird. The centerman has carved out a role with the team by using his grit and high energy.

“I definitely feel like ... it’s one of those things. If it was another injury, you could play a little hurt,” he said. “But it’s something you can’t, because you can’t risk it. I feel right now like I could go out there and play. That’s not something I want to do, and it’s not something they want me to do, so we’ll take it one day at a time, one step at a time and keep the healing process going.”

Zajac said he’s excited to get back into the dressing room and onto the ice with his teammates. Even though Kowalsky said the Devils used him a little more than they wanted to right off the rip, Zajac was feeling good after practice.

“Things are coming back,” he said. “I put a lot of time in when I was hurt to stay in as good a shape as I can, if not get in better shape, and it’s paying off.”

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