Kovalchuk sat out Game 2 on Tuesday in Philadelphia -- a 4-1 Devils victory -- with a lower-body injury but was back on the ice Thursday morning during the team's practice.
There's no doubt the addition of Kovalchuk should add some spark to the lineup -- and perhaps help carry over the momentum the team built in its victory in Game 2. The Devils outshot (35-20) and outhit (32-24) the Flyers on Tuesday to even the series at one win apiece.
"You're adding our leading scorer … one of the top five scorers in the League, so I think it can't do anything but help," coach Peter DeBoer told the media Thursday morning. "Players know their bodies better than doctors, coaches, anybody else."
DeBoer scratched versatile defenseman Peter Harrold, who has four assists and a plus-2 rating in nine playoff games. Harrold dressed as a seventh defenseman during warmups but rookie Adam Larsson was skating alongside Anton Volchenkov. Andy Greene was with Mark Fayne and Bryce Salvador was paired with Marek Zidlicky.
DeBoer nixed the notion that he would limit Kovalchuk's minutes. The big Russian has averaged 25:09 of ice time in the playoffs; he averaged 24:26 in 77 regular-season games. In eight playoff games, Kovalchuk has three goals, six points and a minus-5 rating.
"For me, if [Kovalchuk] is healthy to go, he's healthy to go," DeBoer said. "It's not healthy with an asterisk. We aren't going to limit him in ice time or anything. If he's in, it's full in."
The (Newark) Star-Ledger reported that Kovalchuk has been suffering from a herniated disc in his back. According to general manager Lou Lamoriello, Kovalchuk has been dealing with the injury since the middle of New Jersey's first-round series against the Florida Panthers.
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