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Kovalchuk practices, hopes to return 'ASAP'

Tuesday, 04.9.2013 / 2:35 PM ET / News
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Kovalchuk practices, hopes to return \'ASAP\'



 
NEWARK, N.J. -- Ilya Kovalchuk is not ready to return to the New Jersey Devils' lineup just yet, but the team isn't going to wait too much longer to bring him back.

The Devils are 0-3-4 and have scored only 12 goals since Kovalchuk went down with a right shoulder injury on March 23. They have fallen back into ninth place in the Eastern Conference heading into their NBC Sports Network Wednesday Night Rivalry game against the Boston Bruins at Prudential Center (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2).

"We're not going to put his safety in jeopardy," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said Tuesday, "but we're not going to wait until he's 100 percent to get him back. That's not realistic."

Kovalchuk practiced Tuesday for the first time since he was put on injured reserve on March 24.

He avoided contact and skated as both an extra forward and even an extra defenseman at times. However, he was able to take light wrist shots early in practice, move the puck with some hard passes and got some time rotating in with the penalty killers.

"It was a good day," Kovalchuk said.

Especially considering two days ago he wasn't even able to shoot the puck.

Kovalchuk said the next step is to start taking slap shots and one-timers. He hasn't tried either yet.

"You gotta just keep yourself in shape and do what the trainers and the doctors tell you to," he said. "We've got a great group of guys here who are very professional and I trust them 100 percent. I just try to work hard. We all know the situation we are in and I want to be back as soon as possible."

DeBoer said the focus now is to see how Kovalchuk responds to a full practice, even though he didn't take any contact and didn't attempt any hard shots.

"I'd take him at less than 100 percent, but he's got work to do before he's an option," DeBoer said.

Kovalchuk wouldn't go into detail about what he did to his shoulder (the Devils just said it was a right shoulder injury and he'd be out between two to four weeks), but he admitted he was in serious pain. He hesitated when he was asked if he initially thought he would be in jeopardy of missing the remainder of the season.

"You never know when you're in that kind of pain, but I didn't want to stay out there [on the ice] too long because I knew my daughter was watching," Kovalchuk said. "She always asks me if somebody cross checked me or something, 'Does it hurt you?' Then she feels bad. I had to get out of there and into the locker room.

"It's never good when you go to the hospital after the game. You know something is wrong."

The Devils, though, won't wait for it to be 100 percent right. If they do, their season might be over.

"[It's] definitely going to take a few more days," Kovalchuk said.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - NYR 73 47 19 7 224 168 101
2 MTL 75 46 21 8 197 167 100
3 TBL 75 46 22 7 244 194 99
4 NYI 75 44 26 5 228 208 93
5 PIT 74 40 23 11 204 186 91
6 DET 73 39 22 12 212 201 90
7 WSH 74 40 24 10 215 182 90
8 OTT 73 37 25 11 213 195 85
9 BOS 74 36 25 13 195 193 85
10 FLA 74 34 26 14 184 202 82
11 PHI 75 30 29 16 196 216 76
12 CBJ 74 35 35 4 203 230 74
13 NJD 74 31 31 12 166 189 74
14 CAR 73 27 36 10 170 201 64
15 TOR 75 27 42 6 194 241 60
16 BUF 74 20 46 8 141 249 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Henrique 67 16 24 -2 40
M. Cammalleri 60 25 12 5 37
S. Gomez 50 7 24 -7 31
P. Elias 61 10 20 -16 30
S. Bernier 59 13 14 3 27
T. Zajac 66 11 12 -2 23
A. Larsson 56 3 19 3 22
A. Greene 74 3 17 5 20
M. Ryder 47 6 13 -1 19
E. Gelinas 54 6 11 -2 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 26 27 8 .928 2.19
K. Kinkaid 5 4 3 .919 2.42