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Kovalchuk returns to practice

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

Mired in their longest winless streak of the season, the Devils welcomed Ilya Kovalchuk back to practice on Tuesday.

Kovalchuk began practice as a defenseman paired with Peter Harrold, then switched to forward for the second half. Bryce Salvador (rest) did not skate.

Kovalchuk has missed seven games since injuring his right shoulder against Florida on March 23. The Devils (15-14-10) have dropped a season-high seven in a row (0-3-4) in his absence, scoring two goals or less six times, and suffering their first shutout of the season.

His return would be a huge boon to the Devils' playoffs hopes. They trail the eighth-place Islanders by two points with nine games remaining and host Boston on Wednesday.

Kovalchuk is second on the team in scoring with 27 points (10g-17a). He leads the League in shorthanded goals (4) and shares the club lead for game-winners (4) with David Clarkson

At 25:13 of ice time per game, Kovalchuk is the only forward among the NHL's top 58 ice time leaders.

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