Ilya Kovalchuk didn't make a 'cutthroat' motion toward Sean Avery

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kovalchukavery.jpgOne of the stranger stories that took place during last night’s surprisingly jam-packed night of interesting preseason action came during a heated exchange between Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils and Sean Avery of the New York Rangers.

Some people – including Rangers GM Glen Sather – wondered if Kovalchuk made a “cutthroat” motion toward Avery, a gesture that earned Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Nick Boynton an opening night suspension. Kovalchuk was adamant that he was making a (Dr. Evil inspired?) motion for Avery to “zip it,” which is the equivalent to asking water to dry off a bit.

Click here for a clip of the gesture to see for yourself.

Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice has the story.

“I just told him to zip it,” Kovalchuk said after the Devils’ 5-4 overtime loss to the Rangers tonight. “I didn’t tell him I will kill him, so don’t suspend me.”

Rangers coach John Tortorella confirmed that Kovalchuk made a “zip your lip” motion and Avery himself said Kovalchuk should not be suspended for whatever gesture he made.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I saw the whole thing,” Tortorella said. “It was just shut your mouth. There was no slash.”

Say what you will about Sean Avery, the guy can create some entertaining exchanges, especially when it comes to the Rangers’ rivals in New Jersey. Larry Brooks of the New York Post gets Avery’s side of the story.

Avery said he didn’t care what was said or what gesture was made.

“I don’t think anyone should be suspended for what they say,” he said.

But Avery said referee Paul Devorksi told him that he had gotten his 10-minute misconduct for going after a superstar.

“He specifically told me I got it because [Kovalchuk] is a superstar, and I can’t go after a superstar,” Avery said of the dialog that took place in the box with 9:07 to go in the second. “I told him I make $4 million. I’m a superstar, too.”

Oh, Sean, you scamp. It’s a bit ridiculous that this is a story, but the Boynton suspension sets a precedent of hand motions leading to suspensions. Considering some of the things that are said on the ice, it’s kind of ridiculous that non-verbal communication will earn you a spot in the press box, but why would the league begin to use logic in its suspensions when throwing darts blindfolded is so much more fun?

WATCH LIVE: Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins

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Yes, the Philadelphia Flyers’ playoff hopes are basically squashed, but Sunday should provide plenty of motivation: giving the Pittsburgh Penguins grief.

The two rivals will face off on NBCSN tonight with the Penguins hoping to improve their situation in the three-team Metropolitan race for the division crown (and, failing that, at least one round of home-ice advantage).

The Penguins must fight injuries and a cross-state rival. There should be plenty of talent on the ice, too, so this should be a fun one.

You can watch on NBCSN, online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

Video: Doc Emrick takes a look back at Joe Louis Arena memories

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Sunday’s overtime win against the Wild wasn’t the last hurrah for the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, but that time is rapidly approaching.

The Red Wings have four more dates at the historic building:

April 1: vs. Maple Leafs
April 3: vs. Senators
April 8: vs. Canadiens
April 9: vs. Devils

With the playoffs out of reach, Red Wings fans must grapple with the end of an era.

To help with that cause, Mike “Doc” Emrick narrated a great look back at Joe Louis Arena, which you can enjoy in the video above.

And, if it helps make the future look a little rosier, take a look at highlights from Sunday’s victory.

Goalie nods: Henrik Lundqvist returns for Rangers

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After missing nearly three weeks due to a lower body injury, Henrik Lundqvist will be back in net for the New York Rangers on Sunday night when the team visits the Anaheim Ducks.

Coach Alain Vigneault already said that Lundqvist is expected to start two of the three games on this west coast trip, and after Antti Raanta started and recorded the shutout in Los Angeles on Saturday night it seems that Lundqvist will finish the trip with starts against the Ducks and then again on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.

Lundqvist has not played since March 7 when he stopped 43 out of 45 shots in a win over the Florida Panthers.

It was that game that Lundqvist suffered the injury that kept him out of the lineup.

Raanta played every game for the Rangers during his absence and continued what has been a strong season as Lundqvist’s primary backup, but if the Rangers are going to have a chance in the postseason they are not only going to need a healthy Lundqvist, but to also have him playing at the level he has been playing at over the past couple of months. Since the beginning of February Lundqvist has recorded a .931 save percentage in his 14 appearances for the Rangers.

Speaking of the postseason, the Rangers can clinch a spot in the playoffs on Sunday night with a win over the Ducks.

No official word from the Ducks on their starter on Sunday, but look for Jonathan Bernier to get an opportunity to continue his recent hot streak.

Elsewhere on Sunday…

— It was Devan Dubnyk going against Jimmy Howard in the early NBC game between the Minnesota Wild and Detroit Red Wings.

Keith Kinkaid gets the start at home for the New Jersey Devils when they go against the Dallas Stars, who will be countering with Kari Lehtonen.

Matt Murray goes for the Pittsburgh Penguins when they host their cross-state rivals the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers went with Michal Neuvirth on Saturday so look for Steve Mason on Sunday.

Michael Hutchinson will be in net for the Winnipeg Jets when they host the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks have not announced their starter, but after Richard Bachman got the start on Saturday it should be Ryan Miller in net for this one.

Wild’s struggles continue with OT loss to Red Wings

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Well, the good news for the Minnesota Wild is Sunday’s game in Detroit wasn’t anywhere near as embarrassing as their game on Saturday. They were at least competitive in this and took the game to overtime to earn a point in the standings.

The bad news is the result was pretty much the same — another loss in the standings.

Thanks to Andreas Athanasiou‘s 17th goal of the season 1:52 into the overtime period, the Red Wings were 3-2 winners on Sunday afternoon, sending the Wild to their 11th loss in 14 games this month.

The game continues Minnesota’s late-season collapse that has seen the team lose its stranglehold on the Central Division and play some of its worst hockey of the season with the playoffs just around the corner. They have collected just seven out of a possible 28 points in the standings this month and still sit seven points back of the Chicago Blackhawks for the top spot in the division after Sunday. The Wild led the division by five points at the start of the month.

As bad as another loss is, this was far from the Wild’s worst game during this recent stretch. They limited Detroit to just 19 shots on goal, they had their chances to win it. But at the end of the day nobody in Minnesota wants to hear that right now because it’s still a loss, and it still looks like a team that is struggling to find answers on the ice. Not really the type of thing you want to see at this time of year.

Minnesota actually entered the third period with a 2-1 lead but let it slip away early in the period on a Tomas Tatar power play goal 55 seconds in. The Wild had their share of chances late in the game only to have Jimmy Howard make a couple of huge stops on Eric Staal and Jason Zucker in the final minute.

Staal did score his 26th goal of the season earlier in the game to give the Wild a 1-0 lead.

As for the Red Wings, the win is their fourth in their past six games (and the fifth with at least a point during that stretch) while Henrik Zetterberg continued his recent strong play recording another assist.

Defenseman Mike Green also scored in the win.