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Kovalchuk felt 'best so far' at Friday practice

Friday, 04.19.2013 / 3:12 PM ET / News
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Kovalchuk felt \'best so far\' at Friday practice




 
NEWARK, N.J. -- Ilya Kovalchuk called practice on Friday one of his best since he hurt his shoulder almost four weeks ago, meaning there is a chance the New Jersey Devils could have their high-scoring right wing back in the lineup as early as Saturday afternoon, when they face the Florida Panthers.

Kovalchuk, though, is still hesitant to make any predictions.

"We were taking one-timers and this is definitely one of the better days in a long time," Kovalchuk said. "The coaches will decide and we'll see [Saturday]."

The Devils on Thursday snapped a 10-game winless streak (0-6-4) that coincided with Kovalchuk's absence. They are still mathematically alive in the Stanley Cup Playoff race, but even with the 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers they remain six points out of eighth with only five games remaining.

They could fall to eight points out if the New York Rangers win in Buffalo on Friday night.

"We're still fighting for our lives for a playoff spot and we want to ice the best possible team we can," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "Obviously [Kovalchuk] would be a part of that."

Kovalchuk did not skate on a regular line during the regular portion of practice Friday and was instead rotating in with Andrei Loktionov, Krystofer Barch and Tom Kostopoulos. He stayed on for a lengthy extra skate with those players as well as defensemen Alexander Urbom and Anton Volchenkov.

However, none of that means Kovalchuk wouldn't be able to play Saturday if he responds well.

"I didn't skate with the contact at all for three weeks and [Friday] we were doing one-on-ones and two-on-twos," Kovalchuk said. "I feel pretty good and we'll see how I respond [Friday night] and [Saturday] morning we'll decide."

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  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
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2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
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16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

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2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Henrique 75 16 27 -6 43
M. Cammalleri 68 27 15 2 42
P. Elias 69 13 21 -20 34
S. Gomez 58 7 27 -10 34
S. Bernier 67 16 16 2 32
T. Zajac 74 11 14 -3 25
A. Larsson 64 3 21 2 24
A. Greene 82 3 19 1 22
E. Gelinas 61 6 13 -2 19
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GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 26 31 9 .925 2.26
K. Kinkaid 6 5 4 .915 2.59