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13 апреля 2013 года.
Missing Kovalchuk, Devils Lose 9th Straight // Wall Street Journal

Caldwell, Dave

NEWARK, N.J. -- Ilya Kovalchuk skated with the Devils three days this week, generating speculation, or maybe just hope, that he was ready to rejoin a team that had fallen apart without him. It was tease. He was nowhere to be found when the Devils had a morning skate Friday.

Kovalchuk, out since March 23 with a shoulder injury, was ruled out of an important game against Ottawa by second-year coach Peter DeBoer, and the Devils took another hard fall, stretching their season-killing losing streak to nine games with a 2-0 loss to the Senators.

"These last nine games, we've played better than the other teams 90 percent of the time," said the veteran forward Patrik Elias. "We're not winning. We're not scoring. I can't explain it more than that."

Despite outshooting the Senators, 33-11, and winning 56% of faceoffs, the Devils (15-16-10), in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, remained four points behind the team on the playoff bubble, the eighth-place Rangers (20-16-4), who have played one fewer game.

The Devils were shut out for the second time in four games. Ottawa (21-14-6), in sixth place in the conference, had played Thursday night in Philadelphia and was playing its sixth game of a seven-game road trip -- the first five of which the Senators lost.

Now the Devils, who lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals just last June, are in real danger of missing the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. They play Toronto, another team among the top eight, on Monday on the road.

Asked after Friday's game for a prognosis on Kovalchuk, DeBoer said, "He's closer. But no timetable yet."

The Devils' power play has practically shut down since Kovalchuk was injured, generating a mere three goals in 29 chances in eight games before Friday. The Senators handed the Devils a magnificent opportunity to score early, but the Devils came up empty.

Just 36 seconds after Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot held Devils forward Steve Bernier, Travis Zajac was cracked in the face by a high stick by Erik Condra, giving the Devils a lengthy two-man advantage. They took two shots, and neither went in. The crowd booed.

"If you don't score on a five-on-three, you're putting yourself in a deep hole," said Steve Sullivan, the recently reacquired Devils' forward.

And then, only 14 seconds after the penalty on Condra ended, Senators defenseman Sergei Gonchar hooked Stephen Gionta, leading to another power play. The Devils had trouble even getting set up and took no shots on this power play, and the boos grew louder.

Ottawa forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored his first NHL goal at 3 minutes, 8 seconds of the second period by taking a pass from Colin Greening and sweeping in a backhand shot from the low slot past Martin Brodeur. There were no Devils near Pageau.

The Senators scored again less than four minutes later after Devils' defensemen Marek Zidlicky and Henrik Tallinder thumped into each other, leading to an Ottawa two-on-one. Milan Michalek polished it off by taking a pass from Daniel Alfredsson and scoring his third goal.

"We both went for the puck, and we were at the same place at the same time," Tallinder said. "That's not good."

In the 21 hours or so between the time Kovalchuk stepped off the ice at practice Thursday and Friday's morning skate, the Devils ran into even more bad luck than they have had since Kovalchuk wiped out into the boards in a victory over Florida.

Defenseman Anton Volchenkov was suspended by the NHL for four games for elbowing Boston forward Brad Marchand in the head in a Devils' loss Wednesday. And Bryce Salvador, the captain, did not have a broken wrist, but he would not be ready Friday, either.

Three of the four teams immediately ahead of the Devils in the Eastern Conference standings -- Ottawa, the Islanders and Winnipeg -- had all played Thursday night, and all won.

So the 10th-place Devils lost ground to the pack. Then they failed to gain any back Friday night.

"We're trying to create our own luck," Elias said. "It's just not happening."

Sullivan said, "It seems like it's the same story every single night."

Tallinder was asked how the Devils could keep their spirits up after a loss like this. He smiled weakly, then said, "What else is there to do? We have to."

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