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Kovalchuk here to win

Newest addition ready for shot at playoffs, title run

Friday, 02.05.2010 / 12:18 PM / News
By Eric Marin
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Kovalchuk here to win
Kovalchuk on the ice Friday morning.
The newest Devil has brought a palpable championship buzz with him to Newark.

Ilya Kovalchuk arrived at Prudential Center on Friday morning, when he hit the ice for the first time as a member of Jersey's Team. He was acquired Thursday from Atlanta in the blockbuster that shipped Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, prospect Patrice Cormier and a first-rounder to the Thrashers. The teams also flipped second-rounders.

He'll wear red and black for the first time Friday night, when the Devils host Toronto at Prudential Center.

Kovalchuk, 26, is one of the NHL's elite snipers. The two-time 50-goal scorer has 31 tallies and 27 assists for 58 points in 49 games this season and said Friday that he was excited to be a Devil.

"Things didn’t work out with my old team and I have to turn the page and go from there," he said. "My wife she’s expecting, but she said, ‘It’s a great opportunity for you to win the Cup.’ That’s why I’m here."

The Russian-born left wing scored 29 goals as an 18-year-old rookie in 2001-02, then notched 38 as a sophomore. Since then, he's rattled off five straight seasons of 40-or-more.

He skated Friday on a line with Dainius Zubrus and Jamie Langenbrunner, and adds another bona fide gunner to a lineup that already boasts former 40-goal scorers Zach Parise and Patrik Elias.

Kovalchuk – Kovy for short – can't wait to break in with his new teammates. He moves from an Atlanta club that was three points out of the final playoff spot in the East to a Devils squad that is second in the conference and one point ahead of Pittsburgh for first in the Atlantic Division.

"It’s unbelievable," Kovalchuk said. "You’ve got a lot of great players on the team and it’s a great system here. I just talked the coaches and they know what they’re doing. It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to tonight’s game and the opportunity to do some damage in the playoffs."

Only a few years ago, Zubrus rode shotgun with another Russian superstar. A member of the Washington Capitals from 2000 to 2007, he centered for a young Alex Ovechkin for parts of two seasons beginning in 2005. 

"Playing with those (types of) guys, especially with Alex, I try to sort of gain some speed through the neutral zone and give it to him as someone’s coming to me in the middle so that way it creates space and he can do something with it," said Zubrus. "When you give those guys space, they’ll make something happen. They’ll get the shot off or they’ll create a scoring chance."

Lines from the morning skate aren't necessarily set in stone, as Kovalchuk already knows. He's ready to make a huge impact no matter what lineup goes against the Leafs

"They say you never know who you’re going to play with here because they might change right before the game. It doesn’t matter who you play with," he said. "You look at this roster, you can play with whoever and you’ll enjoy the game. If you work hard as a line, as a five-man unit, you’re going to have success."

Langenbrunner has put out the welcome mat for his new potential linemate. With Kovalchuk's talent, just getting him the puck becomes top priority.

"You make him feel comfortable in his new surroundings," the Devils' captain said. "We tried to talk a bit out there about things, but you don't do anything when you play with a guy like that other than play. He's going to do a lot of things on his own, and he's going to do a lot of good things. We just need to feed off him and try to get him the puck in places where he can be successful."

Said Kovalchuk: "I just try to play my game. I try to step on the ice, play my hardest and help my team win."

His time in New Jersey begins now.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 82 24 43 16 67
P. Elias 65 18 35 -4 53
T. Zajac 80 18 30 3 48
A. Henrique 77 25 18 3 43
M. Zidlicky 81 12 30 -3 42
M. Ryder 82 18 16 -6 34
A. Greene 82 8 24 3 32
E. Gelinas 60 7 22 -3 29
D. Zubrus 82 13 13 1 26
R. Clowe 43 7 19 -10 26
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 16 15 12 .921 1.97
M. Brodeur 19 14 6 .901 2.51

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