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Kovalchuk, Greene out vs. Winnipeg

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Ilya Kovalchuk confirmed this morning that he will not be in the lineup tonight against Winnipeg.

He suffered a lower body injury late in Thursday's win in Philadelphia, and was unavailable for overtime or the shootout.

"I was just chasing, I think, [Danny] Briere on the last shift and I felt a pop, so I got off," Kovalchuk told reporters this morning.

Kovalchuk had two assists against the Flyers and has nine points (2g-7a) in 11 games. He setup Adam Henrique's first NHL goal to erase a two-goal deficit.

"It’s too bad Kovy’s out, because I thought last game, with him and Adam and I, I felt we started to play a little better," captain Zach Parise said. "We got a little more end zone time, we wound up scoring a couple. It’s unfortunate that we can’t play together again, so hopefully he’s not going to be out too long."

Kovalchuk tested the injury briefly in the morning skate.

"You always hope for the best," he said. "I hate missing games, too. Hopefully it will take a couple of days to recover."

Kovalchuk has been one of the League's most durable stars. He played in 81 games last year and 79 or more six times in his first nine full seasons. But better to be safe now than sorry later, said coach Peter DeBoer.

"I talked to him this morning, he was feeling better," DeBoer said. "He wanted to skate but we also know that 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."

DeBoer bumped David Clarkson into Kovalchuk's spot with Parise and Henrique.

"Clarky deserves to be there," said the coach. "This guy scored two games in a row, had nine shots on net last game. I think he’s had an outstanding start to the season. I’m a big believer in rewarding guys for their play. He’s worked his way up that with Kovy out, there’s an opportunity there for him."

The Devils will also be without defenseman Andy Greene (lower body), who will miss his second straight game.

DeBoer is looking for more consistency after the Devils' impressive showing in Philly.

"We’ve responded to poor games with good games well," he said. "For me, it’s looking at the bigger picture, it’s eliminating the poor games or at least eliminating the frequency of them."

Martin Brodeur gets the start tonight looking for his first win of the season. He and Petr Sykora are the only two current Devils to have faced the original Jets franchise that relocated to Phoenix in 1996.

Sykora played them just once, but remembers the game well. Back on Dec. 29, 1995, he was just a rookie.

"Two goals, one helper," Sykora said. "It was awesome."

The Devils came up on the losing end, but Sykora recalled the Winnipeg Arena, which has since been demolished.

"I loved that building," he said. "I used to love all the old buildings. I got one game there, played with Billy Guerin and Stevie Thomas, got a couple of goals. I totally remember that game."

The keys to facing this version of the Jets – last year's Atlanta Thrashers – include the Devils sticking with their game plan.

"It’s about us," said Sykora. "I think we’re in charge of our destiny. I think, even like the game in Dallas when we lost, I felt we played pretty well. The first game back from the trip [Toronto], in my mind we played hard, we played pretty well, we just made mistakes and we paid for every single one of them.

"In Philly, we continued to play pretty good, so I think it’s up to us to just keep it going. We saw in Philly that if we kept playing the way we did, the luck is going to come to your side."

DeBoer update on Zajac
The coach was asked about Travis Zajac, who continues to rehab following offseason surgery on his Achilles tendon.

"He was in town last week, he’s on the ice, he’s starting to skate," DeBoer said. "He’s exercising. Again, it’s a moving target, an Achilles injury. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. We can see that he’s going to back here sometime before Christmas. It could be in three or four weeks, could be in five or six, but it’s on the horizon here, at least, now."

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