NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils coach Pete DeBoer confirmed that forward Ilya Kovalchuk will not play in either of the home-and-home games against the Washington Capitals this weekend due to a pulled leg muscle. The Devils host Washington tonight at Prudential Center and play the Capitals at Verizon Center on Saturday.
Kovalchuk has missed the last two games with a pulled leg muscle, an injury he suffered in Philadelphia last week.
"He did skate this morning, but we're in November and … we don't want to turn this into something that lingers," DeBoer said. "Lingering is probably the best way to describe it."
"Early in the season we've made a habit of shuffling our fourth line around, our lines around in general," DeBoer said. "Hopefully (Zharkov brings) some energy and a different look. He's a little bit of a different player than Pelley. He plays a different game and can complement Mills and Janssen hopefully."
Martin Brodeur, who missed several games earlier in the season with a shoulder injury, is expected to get his third straight start in goal. He's won the last two, giving up just 4 goals in the process.
"I'm getting there," Brodeur told NHL.com. "The more you play the more you feel comfortable. It helps to get in somewhat of a rhythm. I didn't have one earlier due to the lack of playing. It felt for a while like the season never started for me, so this is the start of my season now."
Here are the Devils lines and defense pairings from the skate:
VOORHEES, N.J. -- Flyers captain Chris Pronger completed his second straight full practice Tuesday morning and left for Tampa Bay with his teammates later in the afternoon. He again skated with Matt Carle, his normal defense partner, and participated in all of the power-play drills.
The next question is how he will feel off of it later Tuesday when Pronger has had time to relax from the hard practice. That will help determine if he'll be able to return to the Flyers lineup Wednesday in Tampa Bay or if he'll miss his seventh straight game after being struck in the right eye by the stick of Toronto forward Mikhail Grabovski's during a game on Oct. 24.
"I couldn't tell you," Pronger said in response to a question about how his recovery is going. "I've got to see how I feel after today. I didn't feel too hot (Monday), so we'll see how I feel today after a pretty good skate."
Pronger likely won't make any decision until after he takes the morning skate Wednesday. It appears that conditioning is all that's holding him back now. His eye doesn't seem to be a problem.
"It's been a little suspect after the last couple days," Pronger said of his conditioning. "Again, you don't realize how quickly you can lose it when you've done nothing for seven days, you're bedridden for four of them -- the joints need to be moving. Sometimes while I feel like I'm 25, when you're laying decrepit in your bed for four or five days, you get a little tight and stiff."
The rest of the Flyers aren't worried. They've skated with Pronger the last couple of days and to them it looks like nothing is different.
"He looks in great shape," Claude Giroux said. "He's had two or three practices with us and he's moving well. He's a smart player, so if he's in good shape he'll be fine out there. He knows what it takes and how to get ready for a game. He'll be fine."
Whenever Pronger does return, he will be wearing a visor. His ophthalmologist, Dr. Stephen Goldman, wouldn't clear him to play unless he agreed to wear one for at least the time being.
Pronger still is adjusting to the shield that now covers his face.
"Well, I've played with guys that have never worn one then late in the career have had to throw one on because of injury or what have you," he said. "When you have to wear one, you have to wear it and you just get used to it. You don't really have a choice."
He said the colder temperature inside the Flyers' practice facility hasn't allowed him to grasp what it will be like to wear one in a big arena such as the St. Pete Times Forum, which seats 19,758 for Lightning games.
"It's different because this rink is a lot colder than the rinks we're going to play in, so it will fog up a lot more in the game rinks," Pronger said. "Obviously when you start hitting and stuff, sweat is going to fly and all the things that guys deal with shift in, shift out. After pretty much every shift you have to wipe the visor down to keep it clean. It's just a matter of keeping it clean."
Toronto goalie James Reimer did not practice Friday and will miss his seventh straight game Saturday when the Maple Leafs host Boston. The Leafs are saying Reimer has an upper-body injury, but the fear is that he is suffering concussion-like symptoms after getting hit in the head against Montreal two weeks ago.
"I would say he kind of hit a plateau in his recovery so the trainers decided not to ask him to go on the ice," Leafs coach Ron Wilson told reporters in Toronto. "With the other two goalies (Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens) playing well, if he's not going to face a lot of shots (in practice) it's better for him to just work out off the ice."
Wilson expressed optimism in Reimer's recovery on Wednesday when the Leafs were in Newark to face the Devils. He had hoped that Reimer would be able to serve as Gustavsson's backup, but said it didn't happen because Reimer was gassed after a long workout in the morning and wouldn't have been able to play if he had to go in.
Wilson, though, said after Wednesday's game that he was hopeful Reimer would be able to start Thursday in Columbus. That didn't happen as Scrivens got the call with Gustavsson as the backup.
And now Reimer was held out of practice Friday. There's no word on who will start Saturday against Boston.
"I'm not a doctor or a trainer," Wilson said. "We've got the healthy guys and they're doing the job so we'll give James plenty of time to recover. There's no rush to get him back."
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Rangers lineup should remain the same for Thursday's game against Anaheim as it was for Monday's win over San Jose. The only difference is that Henrik Lundqvist will likely replace Martin Biron in net.
Here is what the Rangers lines and D-pairings looked like in practice Wednesday:
PHILADELPHIA -- Brian Boucher will get the opportunity to pick up his first win with the Carolina Hurricanes against his old team in a building he knows very well.
Carolina coach Paul Maurice confirmed after the Hurricanes optional skate Saturday morning that Boucher will be in the net against Philadelphia. Cam Ward, who made 30 saves Friday in a 3-0 win over Chicago, will be the backup.
Boucher is 0-1-1 with a 4.46 goals-against average and .850 save percentage. He allowed four goals on 36 shots in an overtime loss to Washington on Oct. 8, and then gave up five against 24 shots in a regulation loss at Winnipeg exactly two weeks later. Both of Boucher's starts have come on the back-end of a back-to-back.
"His first game we put him in Washington on back-to-back nights and he played great, we got a point out of it," Maurice said. "The next night we go from St. Louis and into Winnipeg, he wasn't at his best and neither were we. There's a lot going into tonight, but I have a lot of confidence in him and I am really looking forward to him controlling the game."
Boucher started his career with the Flyers from 1999-2002, and then played the last two seasons in Philadelphia. He was 18-10-4 with a 2.42 GAA last season. Boucher was also 4-4 with a 3.13 GAA in the playoffs.
Here is what the rest of Carolina's lineup should look like Saturday:
PHILADELPHIA -- Jaromir Jagr doesn't play the same position, but he understands precisely what Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov means when he says he has "zero confidence in myself right now" as he did Thursday after an 9-8 loss to Winnipeg.
"No matter how good you are, if you're Wayne Gretzky or somebody from the fourth line, it has the same effect," Jagr told NHL.com on Saturday from Wells Fargo Center, where the Flyers will take on Carolina with Bryzgalov in net. "The only difference is the great players, they can produce even without confidence. They're not going to play their top game, but even their 70 percent is good enough."
But how does it change for a goalie?
"Well, that's what I want to tell you," Jagr said. "It would help if we would play tighter defense and maybe don't take so much risk until he gets the confidence back, but I think it could change in a minute. One good save, one great five minutes, and it could change right away. That's the way it works."
Bryzgalov is going to get that chance despite giving up four goals on 10 shots in relief of Sergei Bobrovsky on Thursday. He is going to get that chance despite the fact that he's 0-4-0 with a 5.14 goals-against average and .802 save percentage in his last four appearances.
"It's all about belief," Jagr continued. "It's belief in yourself, belief in the things you do. If all of a sudden the result is not what you want, you start questioning the things you do even though you know it worked before. When you start questioning something there is not a 100 percent belief in it. It's all about the belief." Flyers coach Peter Laviolette has no choice but to believe despite what Bryzgalov's claim that he's "lost in the woods right now."
Remember, Bryzgalov came on in relief of Bobrovsky on Thursday after the younger goalie gave up five goals on 15 shots. No matter who Laviolette chose to start against Carolina, it was going to be a goalie that is currently fighting the puck.
"We feel like we've got two good goaltenders and we wanted to get Bryz back in there," Laviolette said. "We could have went with Bob, and I'm sure Bob wants to get back in there as well. I'd be confident with either one of them."
PHILADELPHIA -- Ilya Bryzgalov will get the start for the Flyers tonight against Carolina after giving up four goals on 10 shots in a relief appearance Thursday. Bryzgalov said he is suffering through a crisis in confidence after the 9-8 loss to Winnipeg, but Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said he wants to get him right back in there.
Danny Briere did not skate this morning at Wells Fargo Center, but Laviolette did not provide any news on his status. The prevailing opinion here is that he will be able to play against the Hurricanes. Jody Shelley and Matt Walker stayed on the ice for extra work, so they appear to be the scratches.
NEW YORK --Brad Richards has been thinking about making his Madison Square Garden debut as a Ranger since July 2, when he signed his nine-year, $60 million contract.
"It just seems like it took forever to get here," Richards said Wednesday.
Forever ends Thursday night, when Richards finally gets to say hello to his new fans by skating onto the Garden ice in a Rangers sweater. He admitted he'll be nervous.
"It'll remind me a little bit of my first game," Richards said. "It's my first time in this type of market with these type of fans. When you sign with a new team the first thing you want to do is get in the building and play in front of those fans, but that hasn't been the case. I'm excited. I'm sure I'll have butterflies. I can't wait to experience it. It'll be a great experience in my life, my career."
Rangers coach John Tortorella, who was with Richards in Tampa Bay, is also eager to see the team's new superstar make his Garden debut. It'll be the first time Richards will be in the spotlight of Broadway.
"He wants this challenge and everything that comes with the city," Tortorella said. "It's a great city, a great sports town. There are different pressures coming here. There is accountability that comes into play when you come into a big market like this. But that's why Brad Richards is Brad Richards. He wanted this, and that's why we want him."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
NEW YORK --Michael Sauer should be on the ice with his teammates when the New York Rangers play their home-opener Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
Sauer missed the last five games with an injured right shoulder, but after taking part in the team's full practice today at the Garden, and even taking some inadvertent contact from Marian Gaborik, the top-four defenseman said he will be good to go against Toronto.
"Gabby closed me out and bumped me from the side, but it was good," Sauer said. "I don't think he was happy that I got the puck from him that time. I did and it felt good."
Sauer missed the second half of training camp after injuring his right shoulder in a preseason game at Philadelphia. He did not play in the Rangers' four preseason games in Europe, but returned to play both games in Stockholm.
However, in the first period of the Rangers' second game, Sauer was hit along the boards and re-injured his shoulder. He played the rest of the game against the Ducks, but said he couldn't lift his stick.
"The hit (in Sweden) re-did it to a greater degree," Sauer said. "It was one of those things where I got hit just right and I needed to take that time off again because I was back to square one."
Sauer traveled to Western Canada and started to get back to skating in Vancouver, but the Rangers didn't have any long, hard practices in which he could test his shoulder in contact situations.
However, he worked with trainer Jim Ramsay and was pretty sure he'd be OK to play Thursday before the Rangers practiced Wednesday. The hit he took from Gaborik gave him the re-assurance that everything seems just fine.
"It's hard to simulate something like that, but we've gotten it strong and I should be able to take that blow," Sauer said.
Rangers coach John Tortorella is eager to get Sauer back in the lineup because it'll help him position the rest of his defense the way he feels most comfortable.
"It puts some guys that we have slotted in areas that we didn't want to put them in back into areas that they can succeed in, or at least better try to succeed in," Tortorella said of getting Sauer back. "Michael came on strong last year. He was a surprise and turned into one of our top four. When you get one of your top four back, it certainly helps."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl