That the phrase “world class” came from both dressing rooms says it all about Ilya Kovalchuk’s effort on Thursday night.
“He is a world class player,” Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov said. “He is very dangerous. He played hard. When the team needed him, he defended. He took advantage of his opportunities to shoot the puck.
“He is always dangerous. He is a great player.”
As for Kovalchuk’s snap pass that sprung Alexei Ponikarovsky for the game-winning goal in overtime?
“It’s a world-class play,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “Not many guys have the poise to hold the puck there, recognize a line change on the other team and spring somebody.
“There’s only a handful of guys that can make that play, and we’re fortunate to have him on our team.”
In addition to setting up Ponikarovsky’s goal, No. 17 also assisted on the Devils’ opening tally before scoring the second himself. That Kovalchuk did this with a back injury — believed to be a herniated disc — only adds to the aura.
He also played 19:29, not bad for a guy that missed Game 2 because the injury was too painful to play with.
“I feel a lot better compared to almost the whole first series and then the first game of the second series,” Kovalchuk said. “I want to say thanks to all the trainers and doctors. They did a great job. Now, hopefully, I’m just going to move on and feel better every day.”
Sounds like New Jersey’s medical staff is world class, too.
Robin Lehner might not be back anytime soon.
Making his debut with the Buffalo Sabres, the 24-year-old goaltender couldn’t complete Thursday’s game against his former squad, the Ottawa Senators, due to what has now been revealed to be a right leg injury.
When he left the arena, he was wearing a walking boot on that nearly went up to his knee.
“It doesn’t look like it’s short term,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma told the Buffalo News. “It’s more than day-to-day at this point, but we need to evaluate further.”
It’s a rocky start to what’s an important campaign for Lehner. He has been given an opportunity to demonstrate that he’s ready to be a starting goaltender after being acquired by the Sabres over the summer, but it looks like that will have to be postponed.
While he’s sidelined, Chad Johnson is likely to be leaned on heavily.
Brad Stuart wasn’t on the ice for the first game of his two-year, $7.2 million contract and it had nothing to do with his health.
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy felt Stuart simply wasn’t one of the six best defensemen in training camp and consequently he wasn’t in the lineup, per the Denver Post.
“Things could change for the next game,” Roy offered. “Like I said (Wednesday), we’re going to use those eight D all year long. (Last night was) just the first game of the season.”
Perhaps, but it’s still a terrible indicator, especially given that Stuart will turn 36 on Nov. 6. Stuart is a veteran of over 1,000 games, but now the question is if he has enough left in the tank to provide Colorado with much value.
The Avalanche also scratched defenseman Brandon Gormley, who was acquired from the Coyotes in exchange for Stefan Elliott. The hope was that both players would benefit from the change in scenery. Gormley was taken with the 13th overall pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, but has only played in 32 career NHL games.