NEWS

Kovalchuk gearing up for new season

Friday, 09.16.2011 / 3:34 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Kovalchuk gearing up for new season
Kovalchuk speaking to the media at Prudential Center on the first day of training camp. (New Jersey Devils)
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A year ago, Ilya Kovalchuk was the biggest hockey story of the summer.

First, he became one of the most coveted free agents in NHL history. Then he signed a blockbuster deal with the Devils that was rejected by the NHL. The contract was reworked and the two sides agreed to a long-term pact, but only after weeks of rumors and speculation regarding Kovalchuk’s fate.

This time around, Kovalchuk isn’t sitting at the center of controversy. With veterans arriving at Prudential Center on Friday for the start of 2011-12 training camp, the Russian winger can be less concerned with distractions and more focused on hockey.

“Yeah, everything’s settled, but from my standpoint nothing’s changed,” Kovalchuk told reporters. “I prepared myself the same way I did last year. Now I’m ready to go.”

No doubt Kovalchuk would like to get out of the gate faster than he did last season, when he notched just five goals in his first 28 games. But his final totals of 31 goals and 29 assists reflect his superb scoring ability. His six game-winning goals in 12 games from Feb. 6 to March 4 accelerated the Devils’ late-season surge toward playoff contention.

As hot as he was, Kovalchuk couldn’t get to 40 goals for the seventh straight campaign. But that’s just fine with him.

“I never think about numbers,” he said. “I don’t really care about numbers. You just want to accomplish the team goal, and that’s the playoffs.”

Though the Devils failed to make the postseason for the first time since 1995-96, it’s that second-half run that has Kovalchuk optimistic for the new year.

“I think we all feel more comfortable,” he said. “We started winning, that’s the most important thing.”

Kovalchuk said he had yet to speak with head coach Pete DeBoer, who was introduced on July 19. The two-time 50-goal scorer knows he’ll be counted on by the new bench boss when the Devils open the season at home against Philadelphia on Oct. 8.

“Everybody’s in the same position when we start,” he said. You just have to prove that on the ice. Last year we were very disappointed, the best thing is, it’s a new year this year. Everybody’s happy, everybody seems ready. I’m sure it’ll be a big year for us.”

A tragic loss
Kovalchuk reflected on the Sept. 7 plane crash that killed 37 members of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in Russia. Devils prospect Alexander Vasyunov and former Devil Karel Rachunek were among those lost. 

"It’s a sad moment," Kovalchuk said. "Those things happen, but hopefully this will never happen again. Those guys were great hockey players and they’ve all got families."

Kovalchuk had several connections to the tragedy. He played for Lokomotiv head coach Brad McCrimmon while McCrimmon was an assistant in Atlanta and was teammates with Ruslan Salei on Kazan Ak-Bars during the 2005 lockout.

"I played with the Russian guys on the national team," he said. "All the Czech guys and the Slovak guys, [Pavol] Demitra, Rachunek, [Josef] Vasicek, we all played against each other a lot of times. I knew them, too."


SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Henrique 75 16 27 -6 43
M. Cammalleri 68 27 15 2 42
P. Elias 69 13 21 -20 34
S. Gomez 58 7 27 -10 34
S. Bernier 67 16 16 2 32
T. Zajac 74 11 14 -3 25
A. Larsson 64 3 21 2 24
A. Greene 82 3 19 1 22
E. Gelinas 61 6 13 -2 19
M. Ryder 47 6 13 -1 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 26 31 9 .925 2.26
K. Kinkaid 6 5 4 .915 2.59