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Kovalchuk possible for Friday vs. Capitals

Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 12:40 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Kovalchuk possible for Friday vs. Capitals
Ilya Kovalchuk did not practice Thursday, but coach Peter DeBoer didn't rule him out for Friday's game against Washington.

"It's day to day," DeBoer said. "Unlike a broken bone where there's a definite timeline on it, it really is, we show up, see how it feels and make a decision. He's feeling good about it, but we're going to retain the right to daily decisions on it. That doesn't mean he won't play tomorrow, and it doesn't mean he will. I'm going to see how he is in the morning and we'll make a decision then."

Kovalchuk, who has missed two games with a lower body injury, skated on his own before Thursday's practice. He could take part on Friday's morning skate before a decision's made, as he did before Tuesday's game against Carolina.

"There's no rules for it," DeBoer said. "It's all on how he's feeling and what our trainers are saying."

Winners of three straight, the Devils (7-5-1) play a Friday-Saturday home and home with the Capitals, then head out on the road for games in Boston, Buffalo, Tampa Bay and Florida.

Whether they get Kovalchuk back Friday or not, the Devils will have to be ready to battle one of the beasts of the East.

"I think everyone's buckled down," Zach Parise said. "I think we've tightened up a lot of different things. You're going to go through times when you're going to miss important players. Right now we're missing three of them. Everyone's got to elevate their game."

DeBoer tweaked his practice lines to build around the trio of Petr Sykora, Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus. Nick Palmieri practiced Thursday with Parise and Adam Henrique, swapping spots with David Clarkson, who skated with Mattias Tedenby and Ryan Carter.

"I thought Nick had a real good game last game," DeBoer said. "I thought that Clarky played some of his best hockey with Tedenby on his line. Right now, I think the Elias line has consistently given us what we're looking for. The other lines we're going to keep working at until we can feel the same type of comfort level."

Palmieri enjoyed some offensive flourishes last season on a line with Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac. He has a goal and three assists this year and ranks sixth on the team with 26 shots.

"Obviously I'd like to be producing a little bit more still, but the chances are there," said Palmieri. "The last couple of games, I've been getting good chances, getting a lot of shots at the net. I think if I continue doing what I've been doing, that it's bound to come sooner or later. I think playing with [Parise and Henrique] is only going to help."

Henrique has four goals, two assists and a four-game points streak since he and Parise were put on the same line on Nov. 2. Parise has a goal and two assists in that span.

"I think Adam and I have played really well together the last few games," Parise said. "I think it'll be good with Nick because it gives us some size and some puck protection. I think he'll do a good job there."

Could this be the adjustment that gets Palmieri lighting the lamp?

"You hope so," DeBoer said. "He had a real good opportunity early in the year to play with some good players [Kovalchuk and Jacob Josefson]. He worked his way down from there, and, like Henrique has, he's hopefully working his way back up into a key role."

Notes and quotes
The Devils' leading scorer with 13 points, Elias has a five-game points streak (2g-4a). Elias, who has already had a six-game points streak (4g-3a) this season, has been held off the scoresheet just twice in 13 games.

• The power play is still trying to find its footing. The Devils have scored just five times in 40 opportunities and rank 25th overall (12.5%).

"It should be and it needs to be a lot better," Parise said. "I thought that with the amount of skill that we've got on it that it should be producing a lot more than it is. That's on the players. That's on us. We have to do a much better job."

Without Kovalchuk, Elias has manned the left point on the power play.

"I think teams have to cover it differently," Parise said. "A lot of things change. Right now, we don't have a one-timer in the slot. We have a lefty in there. But when Patty gets the puck and walks down the side, you have three one-timers: all of a sudden you have me, Zubie and Syky, so it kind of gives you a different look as to how you're going to kill."