Ilya Kovalchuk Returns After Missing Five Games

Updated: November 16, 2011 at 11:48 am by Alexander Monaghan

Kovalchuk will play tonight and skate on the top line while quarterbacking at least one of the two power play units. For the projected lines, click here.

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Of course we didn’t find out Kovalchuk’s status until after game time (these things happen) but the alternate captain did not play. He did, however, warm up and skate at top speed which clearly confused the local media.

When asked by Tom Gulliti of The Record how close he was to drawing in, Kovalchuk was in good spirits. From Fire & Ice:

“Almost,” Kovalchuk said in the press box when I asked him later about playing tonight. He said it was Pete DeBoer’s decision to hold him out and that he “probably” will play Wednesday in Buffalo.

We hope to have another update before tonight’s puck drop.

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UPDATE 11/15/11: According to Rich Chere of NJ.com, via Twitter, Kovalchuk is warming up and looks ready to play.

Ilya Kovalchuk is warming up and looks ready to play

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This situation is a mess but Tom Gulliti of The Record explains it quite well. From Fire & Ice:

First, Devils coach Pete DeBoer told the media that Ilya Kovalchuk would not make his return tonight in Boston from a groin injury, but possibly could still play in Buffalo on Wednesday.

Then, Kovalchuk apparently called an audible.

DeBoer spoke to Kovalchuk again after talking to the media and Kovalchuk apparently convinced his coach to let him go in warm-ups tonight and then make the decision after that.

“It feels pretty good and I think I’m going to take warm-up tonight and we’ll make a decision then,” Kovalchuk said.

The puck drops at 7PM EST so check back for further news on whether Kovi is in the lineup.

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Ilya Kovalchuk practiced with the team today — a welcome sign for fantasy hockey owners. However, the Russian sniper will not draw back into the lineup due to his wonky groin. The superstar failed to practice with a line which is directly correllated to him getting back in. Nevertheless, he practiced with both power play units which indicates he should return shortly.

The Devils will play the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow night which represents another chance for Kovalchuk to return.

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UPDATE 11/11/11: The New Jersey Devils are scheduled to play the Washington Capitals tonight and tomorrow night. They will have to do so without their alternate captain according to Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice, via Twitter.

If you own him, make sure to keep him on your bench for the next week games. Sophomore Nick Palmieri is scheduled to take his place on the top line. For the full lines, click here.

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UPDATE 11/10/11: Kovalchuk’s status is as muddy as ever with the winger not practicing today. The original plan, according to coach Pete DeBoer, was to have the superstar winger skate today in anticipation of playing tomorrow. Unfortuntately, the plan changed which renders the alternate captain as questionable at best. From Fire & Ice:

“He may not,” DeBoer added. “I don’t to be evasive. It’s the type of injury that there’s no rules for it. It’s all on how he’s feeling and what our trainers are saying.”

DeBoer said Wednesday that “the plan” was for Kovalchuk to practice with the team today. Then, the plan changed.

“It’s day to day,” DeBoer said. “Unlike a broken bone where there’s a definite timeline on it, it really is we show up, see how it feels and make a decision. He’s feeling good about it, but we’re going to retain the right to daily make a decision on him. So, that doesn’t mean he won’t play tomorrow and doesn’t mean he will. We’ll see how he is in the morning and we’ll make a decision then.”

Obviously we will know more when the Devils take the ice tomorrow. If he practices, there is a good chance he plays. If not, he probably sits at least one game of the scheduled home-and-home tilts against the Washington Capitals. Check back tomorrow for an official word from the team.

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UPDATE 11/9/11: Don’t look for Ilya Kovalchuk to play tonight against the Canes, even though he practiced with the top line today. By all accounts he improved from this weekend’s status, moving around a bit better. From Fire & Ice:

“I feel better, so maybe another couple of days,” Kovalchuk said. “It’s good that we’ve got a couple days before the Friday and Saturday back to back, so I’ll try to be back for those games.”

Kovalchuk skated “a little bit” this morning before the morning skate and then tested his leg again in the morning skate.

“Actually, I feel pretty good,” he said. “But with that kind of injury you want to be 100 percent sure. You don’t want to reinjure yourself.”

The Devils host the Washington Capitals on Friday, November 11th. Expect him to get a good look before getting back into the lineup.

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UPDATE 11/8/11: By all accounts it looks like Kovalchuk will miss his second consecutive game. While the team claims he is getting better, his absence from practice is rather telling. From Fire & Ice:

“I’m not going to paint myself into a corner, but the fact that he wasn’t out there today (for practice) speaks to where he’s at for tomorrow,” DeBoer said.

Make sure to have an adequate substitution in the lineup for tomorrow’s tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes

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UPDATE 11/5/11: Ilya Kovalchuk will not lace them up tonight due to a strained muscle in his leg. Although he tried to practice with the team today, his effort fell short as he could not make it through an entire practice. According to Tom Gulitti of The Record, Kovalchuk was noticeably limping following practice — a clear indicator he was playing through pain.

Kovalchuk only missed one game last season due to a healthy scratch at the hands of former coach John MacLean. As expected, his offensive production is roughly 80 cents on the dollar while playing in the New Jersey Devils system so hopefully fantasy hockey owners did not overpay for the Russian sniper. While his two goals through 11 games leave something to be desired, he leads the team with seven assists.

Look for David Clarkson to replace him at even strength with various players rotating into his position on the point during the power play. For the team’s full lineup, click here.

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