Ilya Kovalchuk told the Bergen Record that he didn’t feel pain or experience problems during his return to action in the New Jersey Devils’ 6-2 win against the Florida Panthers on Saturday.
“The first couple of shifts I was little – not nervous – but not in game shape,” Kovalchuk said. “Then, after the first five minutes I got a couple of hits and I feel more comfortable and we started playing better as a line for sure.”
In some ways, it’s likely a good sign that Kovalchuk, 30, seemed preoccupied with his individual shortcomings during a blowout win instead of any soreness to his injured shoulder (which has sidelined him since March 23).
“You don’t want to be minus when the team wins 6-2,” Kovalchuk said. “It doesn’t really matter, but still we as a line we want to produce and that’s what the coaches want from us. They give us a chance to play on the (power play) and all different situations, so you’ve got to put the puck in the net.”
The Russian star didn’t score a point, but he had 22:43 minutes of ice time and three shots on goal. While Kovalchuk critiqued that -1, head coach Peter DeBoer praised his play.
“I thought he was good,” DeBoer said. “First game back, he got his feet wet. I’m glad he got a game under him before we go into tomorrow to get his timing back. He created a half dozen chances for himself or other people. That’s what he does for us.”