Will we see Kovalchuk in a suit in a press box or suited up to play tonight? (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
As of writing this article (Tuesday), Ilya Kovalchuk is "Status Quo", us fans have no idea whether or not he will be playing on Thursday night. If Kovalchuk is healthy, should he play? There is no black or white answer to this question. Kovalchuk could be entirely healed, but I somewhat doubt that. Perhaps the Devils trainers have some magic potion that can fix up Kovy! However, this is just me being a fan, and wanting the Devils' leading scorer to be a force against the other Ilya in the series.
Of course, Kovalchuk could come back completely healthy, or only slightly injured. Or he could be out of the playoffs. *Knocks on wood* This is all speculation, but DeBoer seems to think Kovalchuk will come back "sooner than later". So how should the Devils handle Kovalchuk's situation with a tied series 1-1; especially after a decisive win without Kovy in the lineup?
If Kovalchuk is still Injured:
If Kovalchuk is still injured, obviously, the Devils will not play him. He should stay in New Jersey and rest up and follow the doctor's orders. With an all star caliber player with a winning drive like Kovalchuk, it'll be hard to keep him out of the line-up when he says he wants to play to help the team. DeBoer will need to err on the side of caution. The Devils will need Kovalchuk to stay healthy if they make it through the second round.
If Kovalchuk is between 85-99%:
If I were DeBoer, I'd dress Kovalchuk and play him in a limited role. If Kovalchuk could play 10-12 minutes depending on how he feels and not aggravate his back, it could be a good transition to full time play. This could be a mix of power play and third line play, this would shelter Kovalchuk while helping the Devils. Or perhaps he could just play at even strength to help not tire out the rest of the Devils forwards. It is a seven game series and taking the two games at home should be a priority. It would also push the Flyers to the brink of being knocked out the the playoffs.
An alternate train of thought would be to rest Kovalchuk until he is 100% healthy. This sounds like it has no downside. However, there are a few problems with waiting for Kovalchuk to become 100% healthy. It could be awhile until he is healthy. If the Devils wait too long and fall into a hole against the Flyers, they may not be able to get out of the second round. Also, not playing Kovalchuk will lead to other Devils stepping up and taking a lot more minutes than normal. This opens up the Devils to more injuries and entire team fatigue. In a seven game series...this is a very bad option. Hopefully Kovalchuk can recover quick and at least take on a few minutes to help the rest of the team out.
How will the offense fare without Mr. Kovalchuk?
I doubt the offensive explosion from game two will carry over to the other games for several reasons. First, the Flyers will adjust their lines accordingly and the Devils most likey can't sustain another offensive effort like that. Also, Ilya Brygalov could show up, or he could be off in the universe complaining about monkeys in space, who knows. I would rather not leave the Devils offense without one of the premier scorers in the league.
How do you think the Devils should handle the Kovalchuk injury? Rest him until he is 100% healthy or play him in a limited role? Sound off below, and hopefully we find out sooner than later that things aren't "status quo".