Kovalchuk quiet about injuries, lack of scoring
By TOM CANAVAN
NEWARK, New Jersey (AP) llya Kovalchuk has been avoiding questions about his health and his lack of scoring for days, and nothing has changed with the New Jersey Devils on the brink of being eliminated from the NHL playoffs by the Florida Panthers.
Asked about his health, the Russian superstar right wing smiled, and said he was fine. He said rumors about a groin injury were inaccurate.
When questioned about having only two goals in five games, Kovalchuk steered the conversation to the Devils playing well in their own end.
What Kovalchuk was willing to talk about was his team. He likes the Devils' chances in Game 6 against the Panthers on Tuesday at the Prudential Center, and knows what he has to do to force a deciding Game 7 in this first-round series.
The game plan won't be for Kovalchuk to singlehandedly carry the Devils, who are on the verge of exiting the playoffs in the first round for the fourth time in a row, save for last season of course, when they didn't even qualify.
"It's not an individual sport," said Kovalchuk, the Devils' leading scorer in the regular season. "The worst thing I can do is try to do everything by myself. It has never worked out. I have tried it a lot of times in the past when I was frustrated and did things I shouldn't do. That's when you get yourself and the team in trouble.
"We're a great team all year long and we just have to do what the coaches say."
For starters, the Devils need to show a lot more intensity than they did in dropping a 3-0 decision in Game 5 on Saturday to fall behind 3-2 in the series.
There were battles in that game in which the Panthers looked like the much more desperate team.
"We put ourselves in this situation and so we just have to look at it one game at a time." Kovalchuk said after the Devils held a brisk 45-minute practice on Monday. "It's a huge game for us and I think we were sharp today. We did what we wanted to and we're ready to go."
Kovalchuk, who has never won a playoff series, let the Panthers in on one tactic. He intends to shoot more against Florida goaltender Jose Theodore, who handled all 30 shots on Saturday in posting his second career playoff shutout.
"I think all of us, we have to shoot the puck more and we have to create more traffic," said Kovalchuk, who had a team-high 35 goals in the regular season. "We don't want Theodore to feel comfortable in net. You know when we have traffic in front of him, he gives up a lot of rebounds. We just have to take advantage of it."
Updated April 24, 2012