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:
We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.
— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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