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Kovalchuk expected to practice Thursday

Wednesday, 11.9.2011 / 1:45 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Kovalchuk expected to practice Thursday
Ilya Kovalchuk has been sidelined since Nov. 3. (Getty/NHL Images)
With the Devils riding high after Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Hurricanes, several players were rewarded with a day off.

Not on the ice for Wednesday's light practice were Patrik Elias (21:39 TOI vs. Carolina), Zach Parise (24:16), Petr Sykora (21:08), Dainius Zubrus (23:19) and Henrik Tallinder (21:54).

"Some of the bigger minute guys we gave the day off to," coach Peter DeBoer said. "The other guys had a light skate and we'll go back to work tomorrow."

The Sykora-Elias-Zubrus line had two goals and three assists against Carolina, as the Devils (7-5-1) extended their winning streak to three in a row.

"We've faced some hurdles here, obviously a new coach, some new system stuff, some injuries, so from a glass half-full, sure [you're OK with the record], but I think you're never satisfied and we have to continue to get better," DeBoer said.

Ilya Kovalchuk (lower body, two games missed) did not skate, but DeBoer hopes to have him at practice tomorrow.

"That's the plan," he said. "It's all day to day and monitoring the situation, but that's the plan." 

The Devils open a home-and-home back-to-back with Washington in Newark on Friday. Saturday's game in D.C. is the first of a five-game trip that stops in Boston, Buffalo, Tampa Bay and Florida.

Since dropping five of six, the Devils have outscored opponents 9-5 while recording wins in a shootout, overtime and regulation.

"I like a lot of the things we're doing," DeBoer said when asked if he was pleased with where the team stands through 13 games. "We still have areas that we have to clean up. I don't think I have a yes or no to answer to that."

The brightest spot of the Devils' team game has been a penalty kill that's ranked third overall in the League. They've yet to allow a power-play goal on home ice (26-for-26), and have burned opponents for two shorthanded tallies. Only Dallas, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Chicago have more (3).

An area they'd like to improve is the power play, which is a League-worst 1-for-16 on the road (6.3%) and 26th overall (5-for-40).

"I think we need to get some more power play goals," the coach said. "We need to take our defensive game to a level where it's more consistent night in, night out. I think we've got full buy-in from everybody, which is good. I think they show up and they've competed hard almost every night. There's some good things happening, but we have work to do."

Martin Brodeur has turned away 46 of the last 50 shots he's faced to post back-to-back victories. He made 25 saves to top Carolina.

"I thought he was outstanding [Tuesday] night," said DeBoer. "He really gave us an opportunity to get a win. It was 1-0 for Carolina and there were two or three opportunities they had to extend the lead to 2-0 where it really deflates us, and he made some big saves at key times."

Mattias Tedenby is getting an average 11:30 of ice time compared to 12:32 a season ago. DeBoer has worked with the gifted winger to tighten up his D game.

"He has to get my trust defensively, that I can play him with the lead, late in third periods, at critical times," DeBoer said. "That's not just him, that's all our young players. We're playing one-goal games here every night and our margin of error is very small. That's not an easy way to play for young guys, so they have to find that comfort zone that they can get the job done."

Tedenby's 9:37 on Tuesday was lowest among the top nine forwards. He played 6:56 at even strength, 2:41 on the power play. The 24th overall pick in 2008, Tedenby tallied eight goals and 14 assists as a rookie last year.

"He's got some great assets that you can't teach: his speed and his skill level and his tenacity," DeBoer explained. "Sometimes that has to be harnessed in the right direction."