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.