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Kovalchuk needs to play responsibly

by Mike G. Morreale
PHILADELPHIA  -- New Jersey Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk knows he's a much more valuable player on the ice than in the penalty box.

That wasn't always the case in Game 2 when Kovalchuk was whistled for three penalties, including slashing and roughing minors in the second period, of a 5-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round matchup.

"I think it's a part of our game and I have to stay away from the pushing and stuff but sometimes we get emotional," Kovalchuk said following the Devils' morning skate at Wachovia Center.

Game 3 is Sunday at 6 p.m. ET (TSN).

"You have to control your emotions; that's part of my responsibility," Kovalchuk said. "We don't need anybody in the box, especially in playoffs. We just can't take those bad penalties. I just have to stay away from that. Have to be more focused and do you're job."

Kovalchuk was playing with reckless abandoned for much of the first and second periods Friday. He was sent to the box after he and Flyers forward Darroll Powe were mixing it up with 2:28 remaining in the second. He put Powe in a headlock before bulldogging him to the ice.

"He's a competitive player and it's playoff time so everyone is fighting for their ice and their position," Powe told "I have no problem with the way he plays. I think he's just working hard and it's playoff hockey. Everyone goes a little bit harder and fights that much harder for space out there."

Despite the six minutes in penalties, Kovalchuk not only notched his first playoff victory in six tries, but also produced a career-best 3 playoff points in one game. He almost fought Mike Richards twice.

"I was happy with the win because that's what it's about," Kovalchuk said. "Sometimes you take 10 penalties and you win. I have to be more focused and more responsible (on Sunday) and know what I'm doing."

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette has been pleased with Powe's play, not only this season, but through two games of the playoffs. One would expect him to be playing a key role against Kovalchuk on Sunday in Game 3. Powe averaged 12:05 of ice time in 63 regular-season games, and has earned 11 minutes in two playoff games.

"Powe had some pop to his game," Laviolette said. "That's why we made a move for a couple of shifts (in Game 2). When he was in there, he generated energy. He's been good because he's so versatile."

In addition to opening the game with Powe working wing alongside center Blair Betts and Ian Laperriere, Laviolette also put him on a line with Jeff Carter and James van Riemsdyk and, late in the game, with Richards and Simon Gagne.

"If you think about it, he's probably touched everybody's line and probably everybody's position," Laviolette said. "He's played left wing, center and right wing and I can't say that about anyone else on the team. His versatility is definitely a strength and he's a guy we'll be counting on (Sunday) to get in on the hits and the forecheck and get to the front of the net. Darroll's been a terrific player for us."

Contact Mike Morreale at

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