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Kovalchuk doubtful for Carolina game

Monday, 11.7.2011 / 3:00 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Kovalchuk doubtful for Carolina game
Kovalchuk hoping to be back soon. (Getty/NHL Images)
Ilya Kovalchuk missed practice on Monday and is doubtful for Tuesday’s meeting with Carolina.

Kovalchuk did not play in Saturday's win over Winnipeg because of a lower body injury he suffered Thursday in Philadelphia.

“I missed the game, so it is,” Kovalchuk said when asked if the setback was serious. “I hate missing games.”

Kovalchuk has described feeling “a pop” late in regulation against the Flyers. He missed overtime and the shootout, but the Devils came up with a 4-3 win.

He did notice some improvement Monday after working out off-ice.

“It is getting better,” Kovalchuk said. “We’re definitely in the right direction. I was doing a little bike, a little sprints, a little workout. I felt pretty good.”

There's a chance Kovalchuk could be ready in time to face the Hurricanes, though it's unlikely.

"Yeah, if there’s a miraculous recovery overnight," coach Peter DeBoer said. "I’m not going to paint myself into a corner, but like I said, the fact that he wasn’t out there today speaks to where he’s at for [Tuesday]."

Adam Henrique scored twice, including the overtime winner in a 3-2 victory over the Jets on Saturday. Kovalchuk has nine points (2g-7a) in 11 appearances this season. Making up for his absence will require a team effort.

You don’t replace a guy like that with an individual, you have to replace his minutes by committee. We have to do what we did last game: get contributions from different people. - Coach Peter DeBoer
“It’s a hole to fill,” DeBoer said. “You don’t replace a guy like that with an individual, you have to replace his minutes by committee. We have to do what we did last game: get contributions from different people. Adam Henrique steps up with a couple of goals. Tomorrow night it has to be somebody else. That’s how you replace those type of minutes.”

The Devils (6-5-1) have won two in a row and have two games remaining on their homestand before heading out on the road for the next five. Kovalchuk wants to make sure he’s fully healthy now rather than regret a premature return.

“Especially now, the team’s doing well, they played well against Winnipeg. It doesn’t seem like they need me right now,” Kovalchuk joked.

One thing directly impacted by the Kovalchuk injury is the power play. Patrik Elias has gotten a look at the left point, but having a lefty there sets up a different attack on the man advantage.

"Obviously, with the tools [Kovalchuk] has, he puts people on their heels when he’s on the ice," DeBoer said. "We’re not changing anything. We’re going to slide some people around on the power play. We won’t have a one-time option on that side of the ice like we do when he’s in there, but hopefully it’ll open up something else."

DeBoer considered trying Adam Larsson at the left point on the power play.

"That was an option we talked about but we like the right shot on the top on that side," he said.

The Devils continue to click on the penalty kill. They went 3-for-3 on Saturday and have killed off all 24 opponent power plays at Prudential Center this season.

New Jersey's penalty kill is ranked third overall (42-for-46, 91.3 percent) behind Buffalo and Pittsburgh.

"I think [assistant coach] Dave Barr should get a lot of credit," DeBoer said. "He’s come in and,  right from Day 1, has worked diligently at it. We’ve been aggressive, we’ve gotten good goaltending, which is always critical for the PK. We’ve worked at it, just like we’ve worked at our power play. The PK has been good and it’s definitely gotten us some points here in the first 10, 12 games."

The aggressive PK has already produced two shorthanded goals. Only Dallas, Chicago and Pittsburgh have more (3).

"We’re not trying to score a goal, we’re trying to get the penalty killed," DeBoer explained. "Having said that, part of our mindset is, being very aggressive and I think that leads to some offense. It’s definitely not something that as a staff we stress."

Andy Greene practiced, but will be a gametime decision on Tuesday. He's missed the last two games with a lower body injury.

Eric Boulton (hand, seven games) was placed on IR, retroactive to Oct. 21 when he fought San Jose's Douglas Murray.

• Mark Fraser and Rod Pelley have been placed on waivers.