BOSTON — The Bruins will look to continue their roll Tuesday as the Devils pay a visit to the Garden.
The Bruins have won five straight, scoring 30 goals in that span. The Devils have managed just 33 goals in 15 games this season. And New Jersey is likely to be without their top scoring threat for at least one more game.
Ilya Kovalchuk has missed the past four games with a groin injury. He made the trip to Boston, but stayed out late after the morning skate, usually the sign of a player not expected to be in the lineup that night.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer confirmed that Kovalchuk would not be playing after the skate when he spoke with reporters.
“[It’s] another step in the right direction,” DeBoer said. “He feels good, but he hasn’t taken any contact yet or been through a full practice, so we just felt it was the right thing to do [holding him out Tuesday].
“Obviously, the lineup looks better and we’re a better team in a lot of areas with him in the lineup,” Deboer. “He’s your best player, and when you talk to him he would play if he could. He’s not the one who’s saying, ‘No, I can’t go.’ We’re just trying to do the right thing so we have this guy long-term. The next step in the progression here is for him to take some contact and go a little harder here.”
However, Kovalchuk lobbied hard to at least take the pregame skate to see how he felt, and The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., reported that after his scrum with reporters, DeBoer met with Kovalchuk and consented to let him test the groin in warm-ups before making a final decision.
It is still unlikely that Kovalchuk will play, and DeBoer dismissed the notion of dressing the talented forward for a limited role to just play on the power play.
“We’ve thought about it,” DeBoer said. “It was a consideration, but because of the injury, a groin injury, where the idea of him getting cold on the bench waiting for a power play and then getting back out and exploding, it just didn’t fit. If he had a different type of injury, if he was coming off a shoulder or something like that where being cold for lengths of time wouldn’t be an issue, we probably would have looked at something like that.”
The Bruins will be without a couple players of their own, with Andrew Ference and Daniel Paille remaining sidelined. Ference is out with a lower-body injury and skated on his own for the first time before the Bruins’ morning skate. Paille, who had surgery on his broken nose last Wednesday, skated with the club and hopes to return perhaps as early as Thursday.
The Devils are expected to start Johan Hedberg in goal. He’s been the more effective of the New Jersey netminders with a 6-3-1 record, 2.229 GAA and .917 save percentage this season, while future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur sits at 2-3-0 with 3.02 GAA and an .880 save percentage.
The Bruins didn’t offer much of a clue toward their starting goalie. Tim Thomas was technically the first goalie off the ice at the morning skate, but the whole team went off together and Tuukka Rask actually passed him on the bench and was the first down the tunnel to the locker room. It won’t be known until pregame warm-ups which will get the nod in this one.
Eric Furlatt and Don VanMassenhoven will be the referees, with Steve Miller and Tony Sericolo working the lines.
Projected Bruins lines
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Benoit Pouliot-Chris Kelly-Rich Peverley
Jordan Caron-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg-Joe Corvo
Steven Kampfer-Adam McQuaid
Scratches: Daniel Paille (broken nose), Andrew Ference (lower body)
Projected Devils lines
Petr Sykora-Patrik Elias-Dainius Zubrus
Zach Parise-Adam Henrique-Nick Palmieri
Mattias Tedenby-Ryan Carter-David Clarkson
Vladimir Zharkov-Brad Mills-Cam Janssen
Henrik Tallinder-Mark Fayne
Andy Greene-Adam Larsson
Bryce Salvador-Anton Volchenkov
Scratches: Ilya Kovalchuk (groin), Rod Pelley, Mark Fraser