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Skating in all situations isn’t the solution for every player, and leaving open more chances for injury shouldn’t be discounted as a drawback. But the Devils wouldn’t have made the Cup Final without a well-rounded Kovalchuk, who credits penalty-killing time for making him concentrate more on defense five on five.

“He’s gotten better defensively. He’s arguably one of the best players on the team, so why wouldn’t you have him on the PK? He’s a big guy that can skate, and he’s smart,” forward Eric Boulton said. “Why wouldn’t you have your best player on the PK? I think that’s just got him a little bit more ice time. But he’s bought in to the team and the defense and what it takes to win.”