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Kovalchuk back to face Rangers

Coach John MacLean: 'It's over, the issue is over.'

Sunday, 10.24.2010 / 5:40 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Kovalchuk back to face Rangers
Kovalchuk back in the lineup.
The case has been closed on Ilya Kovalchuk being a healthy scratch, and both player and coach say it’s time to turn the page.

Kovalchuk, who did not dress for yesterday's 6-1 loss to visiting Buffalo, will play in tonight’s contest at Madison Square Garden.

“It’s over, the issue is over,” head coach John MacLean said. “As I talked about yesterday, it’s an internal matter. Today we’re getting ready for the Rangers game.”

Kovalchuk spoke before the game on MacLean’s move. He found out about it after yesterday's morning skate.

“It was his decision to give me a little rest, and that’s about it,” Kovalchuk stated.

When asked if he needed a rest, Kovalchuk said, “That was his decision and it’s going to stay between me and him. I’m just a player and I’m going to show up tonight and play.”

Kovalchuk didn’t say whether he agreed with the move.

“I’ll have to play, but it’s his decision, and I’ve got no comments on that,” he stated.

MacLean met with Kovalchuk this morning before deciding on his status.

“We talked,” said the coach.

With five points (2g-3a), Kovalchuk is tied with Jason Arnott for the team scoring lead, and his offensive talents were missed in the loss. The Sabres built a 5-0 lead before Zach Parise put the Devils on the board in the third period. New Jersey is still seeking its first home win (0-4-1).

It was tough for Kovalchuk to watch his teammates play without him.

“I love the game so much, and that’s probably the worst when you watch your team, especially losing,” he said. “Hopefully we’re going to bounce tonight and be much better.”

He added: “I want to be on the ice, that’s the bottom line. I’m going to be tonight. I’m excited to be back and be with the team.”

Alexander Vasyunov, who made his NHL debut Saturday, has been assigned to Albany (AHL). He was recalled to play in Kovalchuk’s absence. … Kovalchuk couldn't remember the last time he was a healthy scratch. "Long time ago, but it's happened before so it wasn't new for me," he said.