After a slightly under-the-radar (and sterling) bounce-back regular season, there’s a general feeling that something isn’t quite right with New Jersey Devils star Ilya Kovalchuk. Some believe that he’s fighting through a groin injury. Others, such as Devils beat reporter Tom Gulitti, hypothesize that it’s a “lower-back issue,” but Kovalchuk’s response to questions about his health was as terse as ever.
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 (for like the 20th time) if he is healthy, Kovalchuk replied, “Yeah” and then walked away.
To some, Kovalchuk’s zero shots on goal in Game 1 ranks as a red flag. It’s not like he hasn’t been firing away in the playoffs, however – he had 25 in seven games against the Florida Panthers – but the Devils have to hope that he’ll send more rubber at the net.
Sure, he collected an assist tonight, but his dangerous shot is what makes him a $100 million man. Without that, he might become a lot like Rob Gronkowski in the Super Bowl: a well-paid decoy.
Kovalchuk might not come out and admit that he’s hurt, but if the Flyers sniff that out, he’ll become that much less effective – whether he’s a decoy or not.