It’s easy to blame Ilya Kovalchuk for nearly everything that’s going wrong with the New Jersey Devils right now, who will play the Chicago Blackhawks tonight.
Yet it’s clear that New Jersey’s $100 million man isn’t the only issue in the Garden State. The Devils have been besieged by injuries so far, even beyond losing crucial scorer Zach Parise for three months (read the staggering list here). As I pointed out recently, goalie Martin Brodeur hasn’t been himself this season, putting up sub-90 save percentage performances in eight of the games he played so far. Let’s not forget that other star/highly paid players are faltering too.
(For all the horrifying numbers, click here.)
While it’s unfair to place a lot of the blame on Kovalchuk, that’s the nature of the beast and the bottom line is that the Devils need him and Brodeur to lead a charge back into playoff relevance. To underscore the fact that Kovalchuk is a leader for better or worse, Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice reports that coach John MacLean will keep him as their second alternate captain for “right now.”
“Last game I liked the way Kovy was involved,” MacLean said. “He cares deeply about the team, which is good and, hopefully, we can get the offense going with him and everybody else.”
MacLean said he did not give the A to Kovalchuk to try to motivate him.
“I feel he deserves it,” MacLean said. “He cares about his team and he gives an honest effort when he’s out there.”
Gulitti reports that Kovalchuk will skate on a line with top center Travis Zajac and captain Jamie Langenbrunner tonight, so he will get every chance to help the Devils turn things around.