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Kovalchuk to be in Devils' lineup at MSG

by Dave Lozo
NEW YORK -- One day after being benched, Ilya Kovalchuk is back in the lineup for the New Jersey Devils.

Devils coach John MacLean said his star winger will play in Sunday's night game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Kovalchuk, who signed a 15-year, $100 million contract with the Devils this offseason, was a healthy scratch against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.

"He'll be playing and hopefully playing a lot and burying some of the great opportunities he's been getting," MacLean said hours before Sunday's game.

As for the reasoning behind the benching, MacLean said once again, "It's an internal matter, it's between him and I, and that's as far as we're going."

Kovalchuk also spoke to the media, but he was also tight-lipped about why he was out of the lineup Saturday. He said he was just getting a "rest" and while he admitted there was a team meeting before Saturday morning's practice, Kovalchuk did not say if he had missed it. In 7 games this season, Kovalchuk has 2 goals and 3 assists to go with a minus-3 rating.

"I like to play, but that was his decision," Kovalchuk said. "I love the game so much that's probably the worst, especially when you're losing. Hopefully we're going to bounce back tonight and be much better."

In his previous two games before watching from the press box Saturday, Kovalchuk had 0 points and just 4 shots. While MacLean never singled out Kovalchuk following the Devils' 4-1 home loss to the Boston Bruins on Oct. 17, MacLean said there were a lot of "passengers" not pulling their weight in that game. However, it was intimated that Kovalchuk was among the passengers.

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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