The New Jersey Devils could use some good news. They haven’t won a game since their top gun, Ilya Kovalchuk, went down with a shoulder injury and are now in tenth place in the division.
A playoff spot is still a reality, but not if the team continues the current losing streak for much longer.
The Devils are 0-3-4 since Kovalchuk went smashing into the boards on March 23. It’s been 27 years since they have lost eight games in a row.
While a timetable for the Russian’s return has not been given, Kovalchuk did skate with the team during yesterday’s practice and again this morning though he did not participate in any drills involving contact.
Since Kovalchuk is an integral part of the club as well as a leader in the locker room, the sight of him on the ice was a ray of sunshine for a team which hasn’t had a great deal to smile about lately.
Of course, the best case scenario would have the big winger returning on Friday when the Ottawa Senators come to town, but that may be a pipe dream.
“Condition-wise I feel good,” Kovalchuk said in an interview with The Star Ledger. “That was never a problem. I just want to make sure I’m 100 percent when there is contact and I can shoot one-timers and hard wrist shots. It’s definitely going to take a few more days. Even two days ago I couldn’t really shoot the puck. It was a good day. I was passing the puck pretty hard.”
While it may not be a good idea to have Kovalchuk return before he is fully healed, the team may not have a choice since the rest of the offense seems unable to put the puck in the net.
“We’re not going to put his safety in jeopardy, but we’re not going to wait until he’s 100 percent to get him back in. That’s not realistic,” Coach Pete DeBoer said in The Star Ledger.
DeBoer’s comments may sound a bit unfeeling, but the trouble is the Devils may not have a few more days to wait until Kovalchuk is completely ready. Tonight’s contest against the Boston Bruins is a must win, and unfortunately they have dropped the last seven match ups against them which does not bode well for the Devils’ chances.
Losing to the Bruins and the Senators may very well be the final two nails in the coffin for the Devils on the season. If DeBoer has a rabbit in his hat, now is most definitely the time to pull it out!