Who knew that drama would follow Ilya Kovalchuk everywhere he went? Tonight, drama found him thanks to being listed as a healthy scratch for the Devils game against the Buffalo Sabres. The Devils went on to get embarrassed out of their own rink, losing 6-1 to the Sabres. Starting goalie Johan Hedberg gave up four goals on the first 13 shots he saw and was pulled from the game just eight minutes into the second period.
After the game, Devils head coach John MacLean faced the media to discuss why Kovalchuk was bounced out of the starting lineup, and for Devils fans hoping there would be answers to be had as to why their $100 million man wasn’t on the ice, they’d end up being left frustrated there as well as Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice finds out.
MacLean would not reveal the specifics behind the decision to sit Kovalchuk, but said it was his decision and no one else’s.
“That’s between him and I,” MacLean said. “That was my decision.”
When asked if it was his decision or management’s decision, MacLean, said “No, it was my decision.”
MacLean said he did not regret that decision, which he made “probably mid-day.”
“I take responsibility for all my decisions that I make. That’s including that decision and including responsibility for games.”
MacLean said he would decide “in the morning” if Kovalchuk will play Sunday night against the Rangers.
When I asked if Kovalchuk was healthy enough to play tonight, MacLean replied, “I’m not getting into it one way or the other. I told you it was a coach’s decision.”
MacLean would not say if the decision was hockey related.
“I’m not discussing it,” MacLean said. “It was my decision. I made it. He knows. I spoke to him and that’s where it’s going to stay.”
The Devils are off to a bad start for the season. Hopes are high in New Jersey for a run at the Stanley Cup, and since the Devils haven’t fared well in the playoffs the last few years, the pressure is on the first-year head coach MacLean. Having to deal with this kind of circus now only amps up the insanity level to a hysterical proportion. Having to deal with a game tomorrow against the Rangers, who are coming in off a 3-2 win over Boston, doesn’t help settle things down at all.
The Devils are a somewhat notoriously secretive team when it comes to dealing with just about any sort of internal news and with such a high-profile player being involved here it’s not a surprise the Devils aren’t talking about what’s going on. That said, after the summer the Devils had in getting things figured out with Kovalchuk, being a little forthcoming with the fans might be a good idea. Keeping things under wraps is just insulting.