NEWARK, N.J. | Friday night’s game at Prudential Center features plenty of star power in the form of the Capitals’ Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin and the Devils’ Zach Parise. But it won’t have New Jersey superstar Ilya Kovalchuk.
Kovalchuk won’t play against the Caps Friday night or Saturday night back in Washington as he deals with what coach Peter DeBoer called a “lingering” lower-body injury. It’s partially precautionary, as Kovalchuk skated by himself in the morning.
“It’s short-term pain for long-term gain,” DeBoer said. “We don’t want to turn this into something that lingers.”
In his place in the lineup goes Vladimir Zharkov, called up from the American Hockey League. DeBoer hopes Zharkov brings “energy” to the fourth line, but he knows replacing Kovalchuk and his heavy workload isn’t an easy task.
“It’s a hole to fill. You fill it by committee; we’ve got to get two or three guys picking up that slack,” he said. “The guys have done a good job and they’ve responded to that adversity.”