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Kovalchuk's future uncertain in Atlanta

NHL.com @NHL

DULUTH, Ga. (AP) -Thrashers captain Ilya Kovalchuk could be traded before the March 3 deadline, although the prolific scorer is not ruling out signing a new contract with Atlanta.

Kovalchuk acknowledged meeting with general manager Don Waddell this week and was told the team can't meet his demands for a maximum NHL contract. Kovalchuk will become an unrestricted free agent when the season ends.

"You never know what's going to happen," he said after practice Thursday. "You just have to show up and play and try your best."

Waddell was not available for comment, and Kovalchuk's agent Jay Grossman did not return phone messages from The Associated Press.

Kovalchuk's 328 career goals lead the NHL since the Thrashers drafted him No. 1 overall in 2001, but Atlanta has made just one playoff appearance and never won a postseason game during his time there.

He's in his second season as captain for a team that is 11th in the Eastern Conference with 56 points. Three teams are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot with 57 points.

The NHL has changed the schedule for teams to make roster moves because of the break for the Vancouver Olympics. Teams are forbidden to make any transactions from 3 p.m. on Feb. 12 to just before midnight on Feb. 28.

Kovalchuk insists he felt no awkwardness Thursday in what might have been his last practice with the Thrashers. He plans to be in uniform Friday when Atlanta visits Washington.

"The rumors have been flying all season long," he said. "What do you want me to do? Sit at home and cry? I love hockey, and not just because of money. I guess I want to show up, play and win games."

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