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Kovalchuk 'ready to go' if Kings need him after being healthy scratch

Forward, expected to sit for second straight game, has three points in his past 13

by Dan Greenspan / Independent Correspondent

LOS ANGELES -- Ilya Kovalchuk said he is ready to play when needed after being a healthy scratch for the Los Angeles Kings in a 3-1 win against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

Kovalchuk said Thursday he could not confirm or deny a Sportsnet report that the 36-year-old forward was informed Tuesday he would be held out of the lineup for the foreseeable future.

"I don't know what was reported," Kovalchuk said. "I'm the regular player. Everybody's got a healthy scratch, and we're in last place, so Coach (Todd McLellan) has to do something to change things, and I'm just here every day for the guys, for the team. And if they need me, I'm ready to go."

Video: NSH@LAK: Amadio sets up Kovalchuk down low

Kovalchuk is likely to be scratched for the second straight game when the Kings host the Detroit Red Wings at Staples Center on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, FS-W, FS-D, NHL.TV). He is in the second season of a three-year, $18.75 million contract (average annual value $6.25 million).

The Kings signed Kovalchuk believing he would put them back into contention to win the Stanley Cup. Instead, Los Angeles finished last in the Western Conference last season. 

Kovalchuk had 34 points (16 goals, 18 assists) in 64 games in his return to the NHL after playing the previous five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League.   

McLellan, who was hired as Kings coach April 16, said there would be a fresh start for Kovalchuk as long as he was willing to work.  

Kovalchuk has nine points (three goals, six assists) in 17 games this season but has a Kings-worst minus-10 rating. He has three points (one goal, two assists) in his past 13 games.

The Kings (6-11-1), tied with the Minnesota Wild for last place in the conference, are also trying to find regular playing time for younger players. 

Video: VGK@LAK: Kovalchuk beats Fleury on a breakaway

McLellan said after the win against the Wild that Kovalchuk was "on board" and would have a chance to work his way back into the lineup. 

"We have to treat him like any other player, and if [forward Tyler] Toffoli and [forward Adrian] Kempe and others that maybe haven't had really good games have had to come out and watch one, and we treat everyone the same," McLellan said. 

Kovalchuk, who needs one goal to tie Pavel Bure (437) for fourth-most by a Russia-born player in NHL history, said he understands the situation. 

"We're all professionals," he said. "It's not anger, no. Trust me, I'm not that kind of guy. I just have to come and work and show that I'm ready."

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