According to an article by Rich Chere on NJ.com this afternoon, New Jersey Devils' superstar winger Ilya Kovalchuk was not available to the media today. A team spokesman said that Kovalchuk was getting "therapy."
The Russian sniper's game has clearly been off of late.
Kovalchuk is putting up some points, but he looks out of place, a step slower than usual and, at times, like he's just trying way too hard. The report of therapy suggests an underlying issue.
There's no reason to suspect the therapy is not of a physical nature, though, there's no reason not to assume that, also. Chere speculates that it's a muscle in Kovy's leg that may be the cause of his troubles.
In his Fire and Ice blog, The Record's Tom Gulitti says it's the lower back that's the problem.
Whatever the reason, fans and players alike better hope that this is sorted out quickly. Kovalchuk is an explosive player, and the Devils will need his skill to contend with the Flyers in the second round.
For what it's worth, Kovy's teammates do not seem distressed (at least not publicly). When asked if he felt concerned about his teammate, captain Zach Parise responded, "Why? No. He'll be alright."
Travis Zajac spoke to Gulitti about how the team—including Kovalchuk—will play in Game 2:
We've just got to keep playing the same way. Get pucks to the net and get guys there. I think that's how you score in the playoffs. We'll be fine. We'll be better as the series goes on.
Both messages seem confident and on point, but the prospect of playing without the star is a daunting one.
Hopefully, that's a scenario the team will not have to face anytime soon.