Ilya Kovalchuk’s never had issues putting shots on goal.
A notorious volume shooter, he led the Devils in shots on goal this season with 310, finishing third overall in the NHL behind Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and James Neal.
This makes his performance in Sunday’s overtime loss to Philadelphia all the more shocking.
Despite over 20 minutes of ice time, Kovalchuk recorded zero shots on goal. It was just his third shot-less game of the season — the other two occurred in October and November — and a pretty stunning development given he averaged over four a game in the opening round against Florida.
“It’s a tough one, but overall you’ve got ups and downs,” Kovalchuk told NorthJersey.com. “So, I’ve got to see what I can do better and be better next game.”
In Kovalchuk’s defense, he appears to be playing through some sort of injury (believed to be a lower-back issue) that’s sapped him of his trademark explosiveness.
More, from NorthJersey.com:
Kovalchuk was in the medical room for a while after the game, and walked slowly through the locker room to go get dressed before returning to talk to the media. When asked if he is healthy, Kovalchuk replied, “Yeah” and then walked away.
This isn’t the first time Kovalchuk’s been questioned about playing through injury. Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger wrote about it back on Apr. 21 after New Jersey lost 3-2 in Game 5 against Florida, a game in which Kovalchuk went pointless with a minus-2 rating.
Measure of revenge: Kings delay clinching efforts for Flames, Blues
Deep down, the Los Angeles Kings probably realize that their season will end on game 82. Still, they kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday night … and managed to spite a team they’re growing to hate.
OK, maybe the hate is almost totally focused upon Matthew Tkachuk, yet the disdain for that talented-but-tormenting rookie was palpable.
It didn’t feel like the Kings exacted physical revenge on Tkachuk, but beating his team 4-1 ranked as classic scoreboard vengeance. With that, the Calgary Flames (and by extension the St. Louis Blues) will need to wait to clinch a playoff berth.
Now, as much as tonight was about Tkachuk, the focus was also on a pugnacious player who once dazzled for the Flames: Jarome Iginla.
In what might be Iginla’s final visit to Calgary – at least as an active NHL player – he was one of the best players on the ice. His fitting curtain call included a “Gordie Howe hat trick” with a spirited fight, an assist and a goal.
It’s official: the NHL will hold preseason games in China before next season.
The league made the announcement on Wednesday night: the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks will play two exhibitions: one on Sept. 21 (Shanghai) and Sept. 23 (Beijing). How cool is that?
“It is a privilege and an honor for the L.A. Kings to represent the National Hockey League in China as part of these two games against the Vancouver Canucks,” Kings president Luc Robitaille said. “Growing the game of hockey is something we take great pride in and it is a big priority for our hockey club and AEG as a whole. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our players and our staff, and we are looking forward to the games taking place in two tremendous facilities in two remarkable cities.”
Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.
The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.
Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.
With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.
They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.