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New Jersey Devils' Ilya Kovalchuk celebrates with teammate Travis Zajac (L) after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of Game 6 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarter final playoff hockey game in Newark, April 24, 2012. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine


Ilya Kovalchuk has been taking some heat for his play of late, but there has also always been a suggestion that maybe he has been hurt.

On Tuesday, New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello revealed his star will not play in Game 2 in Philadelphia because of a lower body injury.

In fact, Kovalchuk is back in New Jersey, not even able to make the trip.

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"He's had this since the middle of the first series," Lamoriello told The Star-Ledger. "Progressively I think it's to a point where it's not positive for him and it's not positive for the team if he can't be at 100 percent."

Kovalchuk has averaged more than 25 minutes a night so far in these playoffs and has six points in eight games, but he really hasn't looked like himself.

The rumour is he has lower back pain or a groin pull, which makes sense judging from the way he has been skating. There's very little of the explosiveness that makes him effective, especially 1-on-1, and all the Devils can hope for is some rest helps him recover in time for Thursday's Game 3.

It went a little under the radar, but Kovalchuk had a huge second half to the season, with 18 goals and 43 points in 34 games since the all-star break.

During the regular season, he also led all forwards with an incredible 24:26 played a game – the highest for a full season since Pavel Bure logged 25:01 a game back in 2001-02.

So Kovalchuk is pretty important to the Devils, as he's on the ice more than 40 per cent of the time.

"There's no question he's a key player," Lamoriello said.

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How will they make do without him? It's likely going to be tough, especially given this New Jersey team is the oldest in the league and they're coming off a hard fought seven-game first round series with the Florida Panthers that looks like it took a round out of Martin Brodeur and Co.

Kovalchuk has been playing throughout these playoffs on a top line with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac and that trio has 10 of the team's 21 goals to this point.

Kovalchuk also plays both power play units, and the man advantage has been one of New Jersey's strengths so far in these playoffs while firing at more than 20 per cent.

The Flyers were heavily favoured coming in, and this coule be a short series if Kovalchuk's contributions are limited.

The Devils top three lines will now look like so:

Zach Parise - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson Petr Sykora - Travis Zajac - Dainius Zubrus Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - Steve Bernier

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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