NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils coach John MacLean said it was his decision to make left wing Ilya Kovalchuk a healthy scratch for Saturday's game against Buffalo, though he would not elaborate on what led him to make it.
"That's between him and I," MacLean said after Buffalo beat the Devils 6-1 at Prudential Center. "It was my decision.
"I spoke with him, and that's where it's going to stay."
Asked if Kovalchuk will be in the lineup Sunday at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers, MacLean said, "I'll make that decision in the morning."
Kovalchuk, who signed a 15-year, $100 million contract with the Devils in the offseason, was not made available to the media. He was at Prudential Center for the team's morning skate, but MacLean said he made his decision to make him a healthy scratch "probably midday."
It was enough time for the Devils to get Alexander Vasyunov to Newark from Albany, where he was playing for the Devils' AHL affiliate. Vasyunov, who has 1 assist in four games with the Albany Devils, played 14 shifts totaling 10:30 in his NHL debut.
Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said the team found out that Kovalchuk would not be in the lineup when they arrived for the game, and Zach Parise admitted they were surprised.
"Yeah, real surprised," Parise said. "We don't know anything about it, but I think we were all surprised."
Langenbrunner said the team was not given any explanation as to why Kovalchuk was not in the lineup. He added that there are no problems between Kovalchuk and his teammates.
"I'd love to give you some insight; we don't know what is going on," he said. "You have to ask the guys that make those decisions and have control. We really don't know."
Neither Langenbrunner nor Parise used Kovalchuk's absence as an excuse for the way the Devils played. They were down 2-0 after the first period and it was 4-0 by the 8:17 mark of the second period. That's when MacLean pulled starting goaltender Johan Hedberg and replaced him with Martin Brodeur, who was supposed to be getting the night off.
"No, there are no excuses like that," Langenbrunner said. "We have a lot of guys out of the lineup right now, and that's never an excuse here and never will be. Guys on the ice are out there to do a job and we didn't do it. We made way too many mistakes and didn't generate enough with playing the way we need to play."
"Regardless if he was in or out, we had 20 guys that didn't play a good game," Parise said.
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