The New Jersey Devils are relying on the return of Ilya Kovalchuk to help resurrect their hapless power play. Kovalchuk, who has 1/5th of the teams power play goals was hoping to return to the line-up tonight against the Boston Bruins after missing four games with a lower-body injury.
New Jersey needs all they help they can get with their power play. The Devils are tied with the St. Louis Blues for dead last in the NHL with a paltry 10% conversion rate on the man advantage. New Jersey has just five goals in 50 attempts and Kovalchuk has one of those.
Kovalchuk led the team in power play goals a season ago with nine and has potted 127 power play goals in his career. Patrik Elias in the next closest on the team with only 93 and has played in 263 more games. You don’t have to be a stat geek to understand the Devils are better with number 17 on the ice.
Kovalchuk typically plays the entire two-minutes with the advantage and the offensive is predicated by his ability to get open and fire one timers from the outside the circle. Without him on the ice, both power play units have looked confused and disorganized.
To a man not a single player has stepped up to become the go-to-guy on the power play. At least with Kovy they have a player that’s itching to have the puck on his stick every chance he can get.
Kovalchuk did run drills with the top unit during the morning skate. But, head coach Pete Deboer said Kovalchuk won’t play tonight against the Bruins.
Even with the power play struggles the team has fared pretty well in the snipers absence. New Jersey has won three of the fours games he’s be sidelined, including an inspiring comeback in Washington on Saturday night. However they continue to find new and creative ways not to score goals, especially on the power play.
The Devils were hoping to have their best offensive player tonight against the Bruins. New Jersey lost both game in Boston last season by a combined score of 7-1. His presence give the Devils a much needed offensive shot in the arm and hopefully give the team some credibility with the man advantage.
Tonight’s game is the second of a current five game road trip. A win tonight would improve New Jersey to 9-6-1 with 19 pts and move them within striking distance of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with 2 games in hand. It’s never too early to make a big push.
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