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Kovalchuk makes trip to Boston

Could play Tuesday vs. Cup champs

Monday, 11.14.2011 / 3:13 PM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Kovalchuk makes trip to Boston
Kovalchuk possible for Tuesday in Boston. (Getty/NHL Images)
Ilya Kovalchuk could be back in the lineup as early as Tuesday night.

Kovalchuk traveled with the Devils to Boston and will know more about his status following Tuesday's morning skate.

The Devils take on the defending Stanley Cup-champion Bruins at 7 p.m.

"We'll see how he is [Tuesday]," said coach Peter DeBoer. "He got through practice; we cut him a little short, didn't want to push the issue because he felt good. We'll skate him again tomorrow morning and see where he's at."

Kovalchuk skated on his own for about 20 minutes on Monday, then joined the team for practice. He was an extra forward along with Rod Pelley.

"I feel good, so I'm going on the trip and we'll see [Tuesday]," Kovalchuk said. "I'll skate one more time and we'll make our decision."

Kovalchuk has missed four games since injuring his lower body at Philadelphia on Nov. 3. He assured reporters that he won't suit up at anything less than full strength.

"If I go play there, I've got to make sure I'm 100 percent," he said. "Why would I go there 60 percent, especially with the way the team's playing right now. All those guys in the lineup, they deserve to be there."

The resilient Devils (8-6-1) have gone 3-1 despite missing one of their top scorers.

"I think we've buckled down and really concentrated on fundamentals and systems," DeBoer said. "It goes to show you that when we do that, personnel can be interchangeable. Having said that, in order to get our game to the next level, we have to incorporate the Kovalchuks and the [Travis] Zajacs of the world and keep that philosophy."

Watching from the sidelines has been tough for Kovalchuk, who hasn't missed more than six games in any of his last eight seasons.

"It's very difficult, but the best part about it, the team played really well," Kovalchuk said. "The guys won three out of four games, and I think they deserved the one they lost [3-1 to Washington on Friday] because they played so well. It's a little easier to watch when the team's doing good."

This year, he's averaged nearly a point per game with two goals, seven assists for nine points in 11 appearances. His absence is felt most on the power play, an area where the Devils have struggled, going 0-for-19 over the last five games.

"We don't change anything philosophically, other than the power play, we don't have the one-timer there," DeBoer said. "We don't make changes based around him, but you're obviously a different team. When he's in the lineup, he has the ability to back teams off, create things out of nothing. It's a weapon that there's only a handful of guys in the League that can do those types of things."

Johan Hedberg gets his second straight start after making 15 saves in Saturday's 3-2 shootout win at Washington. Hedberg improved to 4-1 in shootouts while helping the Devils rebound from Friday's setback at the Rock.

"We looked at the schedule, we looked at some history against these teams in these buildings," DeBoer said. "It was a combination of a lot of different factors. Back-to-back games, we're going to use both guys. That's something that we talked about right from Day 1 of the season. It wasn't a matter of wins or losses, it was more looking at some other factors."

The road trip continues Wednesday in Buffalo, then heads south for stops Saturday in Tampa Bay and Monday in Florida. The Devils return home to host Columbus on Wednesday, Nov. 23.

Stat pack
Patrik Elias' seven-game points streak (2g-6a) is the longest active in the League and tied for the longest this season with four others: Jaromir Jagr, Patric Hornqvist, Tomas Fleischmann, Patrice Bergeron. Boston's Tyler Seguin is riding a six-game streak (8g-3a )that's tied with James Neal for the second-longest active streak.