Kovalchuk, who pulled a leg muscle in the third period of last Thursday's 4-3 shootout victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, did participate in the team's morning skate on Tuesday after sitting out on Monday. He appeared to be comfortable in his brief 20-minute workout with the team on the ice. The veteran winger is optimistic he will return to the lineup on Friday against the Washington Capitals.
On Tuesday, Kovalchuk told reporters the injury was "getting better" and was "definitely going in the right direction."
"I feel much better now so another couple days … it's good that we have a couple days before back-to-back games (against Washington)," Kovalchuk said.
Following Tuesday's contest against the Hurricanes, the Devils are off two days before battling the Southeast Division-leading Capitals in a home-and-home series on Friday and Saturday.
Still, Devils coach Peter DeBoer would prefer to have Kovalchuk at full strength whenever he does decide to give it go once again. The fact the Devils pulled out a 3-2 overtime victory over the Winnipeg Jets without their star winger in the lineup on Saturday probably made Tuesday's decision to sit Kovalchuk a tad easier.
"Kovy is status quo but obviously getting better," DeBoer said. "The fact he's out there, but he's not going to play. Anytime you have an injury like this, it's tough to predict exactly how it's going to come along but he's made huge strides the last 3-to-4 days and if he continues to do that then I think he has a good chance at playing Friday."
It is worth noting, however, that Kovalchuk has a career best 67 points, including 33 goals, in 54 career games against Carolina.
"You have to be careful," Kovalchuk said. "With this kind of injury you want to be 100 percent sure. You don't want to reinjure yourself and sit for two weeks after that."
Additionally, defenseman Andy Greene will likely return to the lineup after missing the last two games with a lower-body injury. DeBoer told the media following practice that Greene "looks like he'll be ready to go but we'll hold off until game time to make that decision."
"The strength has returned and that's the biggest reason why we'll give it a shot," Greene said. "It felt good at practice and we'll give it a go and hopefully I feel good (Wednesday)."
Forward Eric Boulton, who was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Oct. 21, has a non-displaced fracture of his hand; an injury suffered in a fight with San Jose's Douglas Murray. Defenseman Mark Fraser and forward Rod Pelley were placed on waivers on Monday, but each practiced with the team on Tuesday. Pelley will be in the lineup on Tuesday but Fraser will not assuming Greene returns.
Here are the probable line combinations for the Devils:
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After losing four games in a row, including his most recent outing when he was relieved in the first period, it's no wonder Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller hasn't exactly been in a great mood these days.
Miller, who was pulled after allowing three goals in less than seven minutes in an eventual 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 2, was vividly upset with his recent play when asked about it during the Sabres morning skate on Monday at First Niagara Center.
"I don't want to be pulled out of a game. I want to, you know, I want to [expletive] win the game," Miller told John Vogl of the Buffalo News.
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff opted to start Jhonas Enroth on Friday against the Calgary Flames (a 2-1 victory) and Saturday against the Ottawa Senators (a 3-2 shootout victory). It marked the first time since the 2006-07 season that a healthy Miller sat out consecutive games. Ruff wouldn't reveal his starter on Tuesday on home ice against the Winnipeg Jets.
"I'm here to win," Miller, winner of the 2010 Vezina Trophy, told reporters. "That's the emotion you get from me. If I'm discouraged, if I'm [ticked] off, that's just how it is. I want to win. I don't want to be out there getting scored on."
For the season, Miller is 4-5-0 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in nine appearances. Enroth is 4-0-0 with a 1.41 GAA and .950 save percentage in five games.
"I'm just trying to do everything that's in my control," Miller said. "You can't always control what happens in front of you or the coach's decision or anything. You just have to react to it. Goaltenders are judged on how they react, whether it's the puck going in or if they make the save or if they get pulled out of the game or if when they get put back in. It's all about how you react. I'm just trying to do my best to be ready to react in a way that helps this club."
A blockbuster trade was finalized in the United States Hockey League on Monday when the Sioux City Musketeers dealt highly touted defensive prospect Jordan Schmaltz to the Green Bay Gamblers as part of a six-player deal.
Schmaltz, committed to the University of North Dakota next fall, is regarded by many to be a first-round choice for the upcoming 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh. Schmaltz finished his rookie season in the USHL last year as the highest scoring defenseman in the league with 44 points, including 13 goals, in 53 games.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Schmaltz has 3 goals and 6 points in nine games this season.
"He's got a good shot from the top of the point," NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee told NHL.com. "The thing is, I don't think he'll be drafted as a defensive guy -- he'll be drafted for his high-end offense."
In fact, many believe Schmaltz offers the type of offensive skills that made Kitchener Rangers defenseman Ryan Murphy (Carolina Hurricanes) so attractive last June.
Schmaltz of Verona, Wis., is currently in Langley, B.C., with Team USA for the 2011 World Junior A Challenge. Schmaltz is actually one of two returnees on the team, which captured a third straight World Junior A Challenge title in 2010. Team USA opens the tournament on Nov. 7 against Sweden.
Schmaltz was dealt to Green Bay in exchange for forward David Goodwin, defensemen Andy Ryan and Dan Molenaar and affiliate list player forward Jacob Montgomery. The Gamblers also acquired forward Peter Maric as compensation for an earlier trade involving forward Nikita Sirotkin.
Schmaltz, a member of the 2011 All-USHL First team and All-Rookie team, was also a member of the United States team that captured the gold medal in the 2010 World U-17 Hockey Challenge.
"The trade was made with mixed emotions," Green Bay coach Derek Lalonde told the team's website. "David, Andy and Dan our great people and were valuable players to our team. But at the same time you rarely have an opportunity to acquire a player the caliber of Jordan Schmaltz. He is a projected a first round NHL draft pick and will be a tremendous addition to our team."
Additionally, the Gamblers added Jordan's younger brother, forward Nick Schmaltz. Nick Schmaltz, a member of the Chicago Mission Under-16 Team, is one of the top players among the 1996 birth years.
According to the Gamblers website, Jordan Schmaltz is expected to make his Green Bay debut on Nov. 18 against the U.S. U-18 National Team Development Program. The team is currently 8-3 in the Eastern Conference.
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NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils weren’t the only team to skate at Prudential Center this morning hit hard by the injury bug.
The Winnipeg Jets were forced to call up yet another defenseman Friday -- Paul Postma -- to replace injured Randy Jones in the lineup. The 22-year-old had played in 10 games with the St. John's IceCaps this season, producing two goals and eight points. Postma played in his first and only NHL game last season with the Atlanta Thrashers.
The Jets are without four regulars along the blueline in Tobias Enstrom (broken collarbone), Mark Stuart (upper body), Ron Hainsey (upper body) and Jones (foot contusion). The club actually placed Enstrom on injured reserve retroactive to Oct. 31. Additionally, Derek Meech (lower-body) won't be ready until after the Jets return home Nov. 10. The club is currently playing the fifth of a seven-game road swing (3-1-0).
"We have guys banged up so Paul was added to the roster," Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said. "He'll play some power-play, but we just want him to defend, be responsible and move the puck … play simple. Sometimes it's easier to play at this level than the American League, and I've watched him on tape from last year. He looked OK. He was good in training camp and was disappointed to be sent back."
Postma, who will likely be paired with Johnny Oduya in his season debut Saturday against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center, is looking forward to making the most of this opportunity.
"I got the call (Friday) and it wasn't my first call up, so I've been there before so nerves aren't exactly what they used to be," Postma said. "But with all the injuries, I'm just glad I get a chance to play."
"He's going to play, he's on a roll," Noel said of Pavelec. "I won't hesitate playing him back-to-back (Saturday and Sunday) either. It's not an issue. I'd ride him right now with the way he is performing."
When asked if his team will play any differently knowing Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk will be sidelined by injury, Noel admitted that wouldn't be the case.
"(Kovalchuk's) a guy who can really break a game open," Noel said. "He's a guy you need to be aware of on the power play. We'll have to manage our game intelligently with the defense we have and spend as little time as we can in our zone … find ways to exploit their game. This is a game we feel we can win."
Here's what the projected lineup looks like for the Jets following their morning skate:
NEWARK, N.J. -- Despite an admirable effort, New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk wasn't able to finish the team's morning skate at Prudential Center and has ruled himself out of his team’s game Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets.
Kovalchuk left halfway through the practice session and never returned.
"Every year it seems I miss one or two games … last year I miss because of different reasons but hopefully, this year, this will be the only game," Kovalchuk told reporters following practice.
Kovalchuk feels his replacement on the top line -- David Clarkson -- will be an admirable fill-in.
"Definitely, he's on fire right now, especially his backhand," Kovalchuk said with a grin.
Kovalchuk left a game Thursday in Philadelphia late in the third period after suffering a leg muscle pull late in regulation a 4-3 shootout win, forcing him to miss overtime and the shootout. Kovalchuk, who averages a team-leading 25:30 of ice time per game, is second on the team with nine points, including two goals, in 11 games this season.
"I talked to [Kovalchuk] this morning and he was feeling better, he wanted to skate," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "But we also know there's a lot of hockey left to be played so we don't want to push him into something that could lead to something longer and that's the situation.
"Just on the fact he was out there, felt better and wanted to skate tells me that I don't believe it's long term but I'm not a doctor either and I've been wrong on these things before."
DeBoer feels Clarkson, who has four goals and five points in 11 games this season, has earned an opportunity on the top line alongside center Adam Henrique and left wing Zach Parise
"Clarkie deserves to be there [on the top line]; he's scored two games in a row, had nine shots on net last game and he's had an outstanding start to the season," DeBoer said. "I'm a big believer in rewarding guys for their play and he's worked his way up to with Kovy out there's an opportunity there for him.
"Clarkie just can't start to think he's Kovy."
DeBoer will also be without the services of defenseman Andy Greene for a second consecutive game. Greene sat out Thursday with a lower-body injury. He did skate with the club Saturday, but will not be in the lineup.
"I don't think [Greene's] injury is a long-term thing; it's the same type of thing as Kovy," DeBoer said. "He was playing with it and it wasn't getting better so he needs to rest to get it better. He wasn't helping his cause or ours playing hurt the way he was."
Goalie Johan Hedberg, however, is in good health and will serve as Martin Brodeur's backup against the Jets. Hedberg complained of back pain following the victory Thursday. He told reporters that something "popped" in there in the third period.
"Hedberg really [seized] up after the game and he had trouble really walking out of the rink in Philadelphia so for him to come in [Saturday] and be back pretty much to 100 percent is really good news," DeBoer said.
Brodeur confirmed Friday that he would start against the Jets. While Brodeur did feel some discomfort in his right shoulder following Wednesday's 5-3 loss to Toronto (his first game since Oct. 13), the pain eventually subsided. The game against the Jets will be Brodeur's first appearance against a team from Winnipeg since Dec. 29, 1995 when the Devils suffered a 5-3 setback at the old Winnipeg Arena.
Brodeur sported a mark of 3-1-0 with a 2.26 goals-against average and one shutout against the original Jets. In 11 seasons against the Atlanta Thrashers, Brodeur was 22-8-8 with a 2.16 GAA and seven shutouts.
Sarnia Sting right wing Nail Yakupov, who many consider will be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 Draft at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on June 22, was named the Ontario Hockey League's player of the month for October.
Yakupov led the league in scoring with 29 points in 13 games for Sarnia, including 11 goals and a league-leading 18 assists in October.
"Yakupov is a dynamic exciting player … he's one of the few players that you can say this guy is worth the price of admission," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr told NHL.com. "He can put on that type of a show, he's that skilled."
Yakupov, who began skating when he was 3-years-old in Nizhnekamsk, Russia, had a point in 12 of his 13 games in the month. He produced nine multi-point games and finished with the second highest plus-minus rating in the League (plus-13).
In the upcoming six-game 2011 Subway Super Series, featuring the top junior-aged players of the Canadian Hockey League against those from the Russian National Junior Team, Yakupov will represent his country against Team OHL on Nov. 10 in Ottawa.
"When you watch him, I don't think there's one singular player that you would say, 'Wow, that's a guy he could be just like,'" said NHL Network analyst Craig Button. "But his ability to maneuver out of traffic and out of the corners from tight areas reminds you a Pavel Datsyuk. When you watch him explode in his skating, he reminds you of Pavel Bure."
Yakupov was one of 36 top 2012 prospects on the ice for the NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in Etobicoke, Ont., in August. Yakupov (6-foot, 190 pounds), selected second by the Sting during the 2010 CHL import draft, had the fourth-highest total in the OHL and most by a first-year player when he struck for 101 points in 2010-11. He won the OHL's Rookie of the Year award and his point total, which included 49 goals, shattered Steven Stamkos' team record for a rookie (92 points in 2006-07).
Yakupov claimed OHL and CHL Player of the Week honors for the week ending Oct. 16 when he matched a career-high with 4 assists on Oct. 14 in a 7-2 win over the Saginaw Spirit. During a stretch of three straight games from Oct. 22-29, he scored 7 points in three games. Yakupov was also named the game's first star in a 7-2 win over the Sudbury Wolves after notching 2 goals and 2 assists on Oct. 1.
Yakupov, 18, currently leads the OHL in scoring with 34 points in 16 games with 12 goals and a league-high 22 assists. He's looking to become the first Russian-born player since Alex Ovechkin in 2004 to go first overall.
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The Canadian Hockey League on Thursday announced a roster replacement and additions for the Western Hockey League team that will play the Russians in the 2011 Subway Super Series on Nov. 16 in Regina and Nov. 17 in Moose Jaw.
Griffin Reinhart, Edmonton Oil Kings defenseman
Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray, originally scheduled to participate with Team WHL on Nov. 16, will be sidelined the next five weeks with a sprained ankle suffered in an 8-2 loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings on Oct. 19. Prior to the injury, he had 3 goals and 6 points in 10 games.
Murray will be replaced in the lineup by fellow 2012 draft-eligible prospect Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Also added to the Team WHL roster to compete in Regina is the Kelowna Rockets' Brett Bulmer and Zach Franko, along with Kamloops Blazers' Colin Smith. For the final game of the series on Nov. 17, the WHL added the Oil Kings' Michael St. Croix and Cody Beach of the Moose Jaw Warriors.
While the team loses an extremely reliable defensive-defenseman in Murray, Reinhart will bring a bit of an edge along the blueline.
He's already earning comparisons to Nashville's Shea Weber with his hulking size (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) and tremendous mobility in the back end. His father is former NHL defenseman Paul Reinhart, who scored 560 points over 11 seasons and 648 games with the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. His older brother, Max, a third-round pick (No. 64 overall) of the Calgary Flames in 2010, began his fourth season with the WHL's Kootenay Ice in 2011-12.
Reinhardt will no doubt receive much more ice time in his second full season with the Oil Kings after notching six goals, 25 points, 36 penalty minutes and a plus-7 rating in 46 games as a rookie last year. He has produced 2 goals, 6 points, 9 penalty minutes and a plus-2 rating in 11 games for the Oil Kings this season.
"He's a big package and knows how to use it," MacDonald said. "He's very strong in the corners and battles in front of his own net. He's solid one-on-one, can eliminate opposing forwards convincingly and is physically strong in all areas of the ice.
"He'll develop into a rock solid, big presence for an NHL team … he has huge upside."
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Johansen, the No. 4 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, has 2 goals, 4 points and a plus-1 rating in nine games this season. Both his goals have been game-winners. Once Johansen steps on the ice for his 10th game, the first year of his three-year, entry-level contract will kick in.
The Blue Jackets are home to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday and in Philadelphia to face the Flyers on Saturday.
The move to keep Johansen comes at a time when the team is short one center with Jeff Carter sidelined with a fractured foot. According to The Columbus Dispatch, Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson and coach Scott Arniel spent the last two days contemplating the decision whether to keep Johansen or return him to the Western Hockey League.
"We have decided to keep Ryan Johansen through the 10-game thresh-hold, which means the first year of his contract will apply to this season," Howson announced via his Twitter account.
If Johansen was returned to the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, he would have become a restricted free agent after the 2013-14 campaign. The 6-foot-3, 203-pound Vancouver native had 40 goals and 92 points in 63 games with Portland last season. He also had 3 goals and 9 points in seven games for silver medal-winning Team Canada at the 2011 World Junior Championship.
"There have been moments where he's looked very good and moments where he's looked like a 19-year-old finding his way in the NHL," Howson told the Dispatch. "But he was better in game nine than he was in game one."
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If there was any question of the future plans for 2012 top draft eligible prospect Zemgus Girgensons, the 6-foot-1 Latvian did his best to answer them this week.
In an interview with hockey blogger Ryan S. Clark of 'Slightly Chilled', Girgensons of the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League said he doesn't see himself playing in the Canadian Hockey League.
Girgensons, committed to the University of Vermont for the fall of 2012, was also drafted 45th overall by the Kelowna Rockets during the CHL Import Draft and was taken in the second round of the KHL Junior Draft by CSKA Moscow.
"You know, first of all I don't see my future in the CHL," Girgensons told Clark. "I talked with other CHL teams that were interested in me. I thought about the (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) and the Quebec Remparts (where fellow blue chip prospect Mikhail Grigorenko stars), but Kelowna drafted me and didn't say anything to me about it. After that, I felt they disrespected me a little bit. They pushed it a little bit onto my adviser and I don't think he really liked it."
Girgensons finished third overall on Dubuque with 49 points, including 21 goals, in 51 games last season and was selected to the mid-season Western Conference All-Stars. Through nine games this season, Girgensons has 6 goals, including 3 game-winners, 13 points and a plus-2 rating.
Adding coal to the fire was a blog that Clark pointed to which specializes in news out of the Western Hockey League. The outlet, 'DubNation', quoted Rockets owner and general manager Bruce Hamilton when asked about Girgensons.
"His agents think (Dubuque) is where he should be playing and he's very loyal to that program but I know as soon as he's drafted, the NHL team is not going to want him in Dubuque and they're not going to want him going to the University of Vermont, either," Hamilton told DubNation. "We'll have a real good opportunity to have him here for sure next year, and potentially after Christmas this year. When the Latvian team plays in the world juniors, we'll be very aggressive again there."
Girgensons represented Latvia at the 2010 World Under-18 Championships, notching two assists in six games.
Dubuque coach Jim Montgomery, a collegiate standout at the University of Maine, responded this way:
"First of all, I was wondering how he could be tampering with a player that plays with another junior team in the middle of the season. I was also wondering about his ethics and why would you want to try and approach someone trying to win a gold medal for his nation," Montgomery told 'Slightly Chilled'. "Being a Canadian, he should know how important it is to win a gold medal. If junior hockey is coming to this type of level where you're going to bother someone while they’re trying to win a gold medal for his country speaks volumes about the integrity of some of the people in junior hockey. I know for a fact that (Girgensons) hasn't spoken to an adviser and (Girgensons' adviser) hasn'’t spoken to the kid either. He's defending his draft pick and that's why he's putting a positive spin on it as possible. Really, he's making himself look like he's unethical."
Girgensons was also perturbed by Hamilton's comments, according to 'Slightly Chilled.'
"I don't think it was a great move by them," Girgensons said. "If they had said 'We support his decision to go to Vermont', that would have been fine but they said I should not go there. They disrespected my thoughts and I felt like they didn't even trust me."
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PITTSBURGH --Sidney Crosby took his customary skate this morning during the Penguins' practice session, working with Steve MacIntyre and Mark Letstu.
Crosby won't make his season debut tonight against the New York Islanders, but he was certainly in a jovial mood and having fun with his teammates. He also worked the point on the power-play alongside Paul Martin with forwards Mark Letstu, Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke down low.
With the luxury of the final line change, expect Penguins coach Dan Bylsma to have two-way center Jordan Staal on the ice whenever Islanders center John Tavares, who leads his team with 6 goals and 10 points, takes his shift.
"Tavares did things in our last game that were very dangerous and very good in the offensive zone, cutting the seams and pulling up on rushes and looking for late defensemen," Bylsma said. "His line was dangerous in the game and could have got them on the board. In the third period, he also had several chances. Tonight, playing home gives us a chance to maybe get a little closer matchup on him than we could have on the road.
The Penguins players wore special purple jerseys at the morning skate and will again don the attire during pre-game warmups on Thursday while the organization supports the NHL's annual Hockey Fights Cancer initiative. Each player will sign his jersey following the warm-up, and those jerseys will then be auctioned off at NHL.com beginning on Nov. 1.
Bylsma said the lineups would be a gametime decision, but here's what rolled during the morning practice session.
In addition to the game, there's also plenty of fervor and excitement building up over the big League announcement that will be made at 3 p.m. ET here at Consol Energy Center. Stay tuned to NHL.com for complete details ...
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Obviously there's a lot of expectations around me but it's something I try not to focus on. I'm just trying to go out there, be myself on the ice every day, try to get better, be myself around the guys in the locker room. I think that's what's made me successful and the person that I am.
— Sabres forward Jack Eichel on transitioning from college hockey to the NHL