The long awaited return of their superstar is finally upon the New Jersey Devils. Of course, it comes a couple of weeks too late.
Ilya Kovalchuk will be back in the lineup for the Devils when they take on the cellar-dwelling Florida Panthers on Saturday night. Kovalchuk hasn’t been in the lineup for New Jersey since March 23rd, when he suffered a shoulder injury. The Devils have been on a downward slide out of contention ever since.
The Devils currently sit in 11th in the Eastern Conference. While they haven’t been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention yet, one has to imagine that it will come soon. They’re eight points out of the eighth spot in the East with just five games left to play.
Without Kovy in the lineup, it’s been nothing but down for the Devils. They’ve had issues finding wins and, more specifically, finding goals. Their struggles without him included a 10-game winless streak that pretty much put an end to any playoff hopes that this team had left.
Prior to going down with that shoulder injury, Kovalchuk was having a fine season for New Jersey. He had 27 points in 32 games before the injury, with a dozen of his points coming on the power play. He had points in eight of ten games before he suffered the shoulder injury.
The return of Kovalchuk won’t do much for the Devils from a standings perspective. They’re not going to go on an improbably run and somehow grab that eighth and final playoff spot. But they can at least salvage some of this season with Kovalchuk back in the fold.