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Kovalchuk will arrive at camp Wednesday

Sunday, 01.13.2013 / 1:45 PM / News
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Kovalchuk will arrive at camp Wednesday
NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said Sunday that forward Ilya Kovalchuk will miss the first three days of training camp in order to travel back from Russia, where he was playing during the lockout, and get his family situated in New Jersey.

Kovalchuk, who played in the KHL All-Star Game on Sunday, is expected to arrive in New Jersey on Tuesday and to join the Devils for practice on Wednesday.

Lamoriello said Kovalchuk, who had 42 points in 36 games for SKA St. Petersburg, is not considered in violation of his contract and therefore will not face any discipline from the club for missing the first three days of training camp, which began Sunday at Prudential Center.

"I am very comfortable with this situation," Lamoriello said. "There is no penalty involved. There is no disrespect involved. I've talked to him and I feel comfortable where we're at. We're anxious to get him back here and get him in the lineup with the rest of the people and there will be no repercussions."

Lamoriello said he spoke to Kovalchuk when it appeared the lockout was close to ending and Kovalchuk explained to Lamoriello that it was important to him to play in the KHL All-Star Game.

"With the situation he had and what they had done for him, naming him captain in St. Petersburg, he had a conversation with me and said, 'If it gets to a certain point I really would like to play in the All-Star Game and not just simply leave here,' " Lamoriello said. "He said, 'I have tremendous respect for my country. They have treated me a certain way, given me opportunities, named me captain [of a KHL All-Star team].'

"I said we would take it day by day and when it did get close, although I could not give him official permission simply because of injury situation if that took place, I did understand that this was something that was important to him. He played 30-plus games and I had no problem with this situation."

Lamoriello is not concerned with how Kovalchuk's situation could be viewed by other players on the team.
"I think if you know me well enough there is no way we'll ever put an individual in front of the team," Lamoriello said. "I do not have any hesitations. If it were different I'd tell you."

Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said he understands why Kovalchuk wanted to stay in Russia to play in the KHL All-Star Game.

"He sacrificed himself to go overseas and do what he did, and he felt he needed to finish up what he started," Brodeur said. "It's fine. Kovy is a dominant player; he doesn't need to be here for seven days. If it was important to him he's happy, so it's good."

Veteran forward Patrik Elias said Kovalchuk won't have to explain his reasons to the team when he returns.

"Listen, I think there is going to be a bigger deal made out of it from all the people outside this locker room," Elias said. "We have a short season ahead of us and I'm sure he'll be happy to be back here with us. It's not going to be talked about here at all. It's not our problem. It's not our issue to talk about that. If he's going to say something it's his choice. We're happy to be back, all of us. This is nothing that we worry about."

Lamoriello did admit it is not ideal that Kovalchuk will miss the first three days of camp, but he called these "extenuating circumstances."

"You certainly want all the players here, but this is not the first time something like this has happened," he said.

"Throughout my years I've been through just about every type of thing, but this is something where there has been total communication. This is not something where there is any, right now, concern whatsoever from my part."

It helps, of course, that Kovalchuk will likely return to New Jersey in game shape having played in 36 games in the KHL.
"I have no issues about his conditioning or anything that he'll miss here because he's ahead of the curve," coach Peter DeBoer said.

Follow Dan Rosen at @drosennhl

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