Elias: Kovalchuk missing start of Devils camp would be a big deal


The potential for drama in the Ilya Kovalchuk situation continues to climb.

While every other New Jersey Devils player gave the Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti a diplomatic answer regarding Kovalchuk possibly missing the beginning of training camp for the KHL All-Star Game, Patrik Elias said it’s a big deal.

“It is,” Elias said. “We’re all supposed to report on Sunday, right?”

Before you imagine Roman Hamrlik in the Washington Capitals locker room-type awkwardness, Elias does provide a caveat.

“If they gave him permission, that’s fine,” Elias said.

That’s where it gets a little funky.

Devils GM Lou Lamoriello hasn’t addressed the Kovalchuk issue specifically, but Gulitti indicates that the team expects Kovalchuk to be at camp on Sunday.

As for Kovalchuk returning to New Jersey, Lamoriello said his feelings were, “No different on any of the statements I’ve made,” which is that he has “no reason” to believe Kovalchuk won’t be in New Jersey for the start of camp.

Should the Devils actually expect him to show up?

Backup goalie Johan Hedberg has been texting with Kovalchuk and provided a rather interesting perspective on why the sniper might stay in the KHL.

“I see plenty of reasons, really. I think this goes back to more a moral thing too. I don’t know if I want to go there,” Hedberg said.

(Hedberg declined to elaborate on what he meant by “moral thing,” while Gulitti guesses it’s a reference to the lockout.)

” But I hope and I think he’s going to be with us,” Hedberg said.

Considering all the talk about how much Kovalchuk wants to finish the season overseas, one wouldn’t guarantee his return, though.

Fabbri primed to make Blues in significant role

Jason Demers, Robby Fabbri
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With the start of the regular season just around the corner, it looks like Robby Fabbri will not only make his NHL debut on Thursday, but also get meaningful minutes.

During Sunday’s practice the 19-year-old forward played alongside Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz. Nothing is set in stone, but that combination did gel.

“I think we want to look at what the combinations look like now rather than do it at the start of the season,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We’re looking at a hard match line and we’re also looking at taking advantage of speed and skill off the rush.

“I really liked what I saw today. I really liked Lehtera’s line, they looked very dynamic off the rush.”

The top line of Alexander Steen, Paul Stastny, and Vladimir Tarasenko seems like a good bet to play together for the time being. Jori Lehtera and Jaden Schwartz will stick together on the second line while Dmitrij Jaskin and David Backes can expect to be regular partners on the third unit. The X-factors will be Fabbri and Troy Brouwer as Hitchcock has left the door open to alternating between the two of them on the second and third line depending on the opponent.

Fabbri was taken with the 21st overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and is looking to make the leap after a brief stint in the AHL last season. At the OHL level, he’s been a dominate force with the Guelph Storm, scoring 25 goals and 51 points in 30 games in 2014-15.

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
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Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.