With the New Jersey Devils fighting for a spot in the postseason, they received some awfully bad news Sunday: Ilya Kovalchuk is going to be out 2-4 weeks after injuring his shoulder Saturday night in a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers.
Kovalchuk was bringing the puck into the offensive zone and was being followed by a defender when he simply lost an edge. He spilled to the ice and crashed hard into the boards and stayed down for a few seconds before exiting the ice favoring his arm/shoulder.
The one bit of good news is that Kovalchuk will not need surgery. Still, the devils are looking at being without their top player for a couple of weeks at minimum.
"It could be two [weeks], could be four, could be less, certainly not more," GM Lou Lamoriello said.
Talk about a big loss. Kovalchuk means as much to the Devils as probably any player means to his team in the NHL, save for goaltenders. As a forward he logs more than 25 minutes of ice time per game, which is borderline absurd. He has become a solid two-way player who is not a liability on the ice.
He is also second on the Devils with 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 32 games this season, trailing only Patrik Elias. With Kovalchuk out that means the Devils have only three players on the team who have scored more than six goals this season.
As you can see, the offense takes a big hit. For a team that has struggled to score goals in recent weeks to the point they have fallen to 24th in the NHL in goals per game, the timing is pretty bad.
If Kovalchuk returns at the shorter end of that timeline -- and really, that would be the expectation -- at least the Devils can look at the schedule and see a manageable few weeks. Their next seven games are at Ottawa, at Tampa Bay, at Florida, vs. the Islanders, at Boston, vs. Toronto and at Buffalo. That's not a terribly daunting stretch of games even without Kovalchuk.
As it stands now the Devils are four points clear of ninth in the East, so really they just need to try to keep afloat while Kovalchuk is out.