Can The Devils Make The Playoffs Without Ilya Kovalchuk? Yes, But It Will Be Tight


The New Jersey Devils won the game on Saturday against the Panthers, but lost their best player for an indeterminate amount of time with a shoulder injury. Ilya Kovalchuk left the game with a right shoulder injury that will keep him out of the lineup for a large chunk of the remaining season.

That was after the game on Saturday.  Lou Lamoriello met with the media Sunday afternoon and gave an update:

So, with just 5 weeks left in the season, where does that leave the Devils?

March 21, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur (30) is congratulated by teammate right wing Ilya Kovalchuk (17) after his 1st period goal against the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC center. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

As long as they have Martin Brodeur healthy, they still have a fighting chance.  But Kovalchuk is the Devils’ most explosive player and is the key component for the New Jersey offense.  He is their second leading scorer (27 points in 32 games) and is tied with 3 other players for 2nd in goals with 10 (David Clarkson has 12). He also has half of the Devils’ league leading 8 short-handed goals, so that will remove some of the pressure on opposing power plays.

They are a well balanced club and that will benefit them in the long run.  Also, Dainius Zubrus is nearing a return from wrist surgery and although not as talented as Kovalchuk, will fill some of the void, when he gets back, although it will not likely be during the Devils upcoming 3 game road trip.

The Devils currently sit 7th in the East and have 2 teams (Carolina & NY Rangers) 4 points behind them with 2 games in hand each.  The Devils have 7 games in the next two weeks, but they also have the Lightning, Panthers, Islanders and Sabres in that time.  If they can win those games against the lower seeded teams, they will be all right.  However if they struggle without him and fall back to Carolina and the Rangers they could be in tough.  Looking ahead to the final week of the season, they have 2 games with the Rangers in MSG as well as the Penguins and Canadiens.

It may very well come down to a NY-NJ matchup on the final day of the regular season to determine the 8th playoff seed.

New Jersey faces Ottawa on Monday, without Kovalchuk, Zubrus as well as Alexei Ponikarovsky in their lineup.