Kovalchuk returns to lineup against Rangers

UPDATE: Let’s sum up this whole crazy 24 hours on the Ilya Kovalchuk ordeal. He is back to being a game-time decision, one that Thrashers coach John Anderson’s gut thinks will play, tonight against the Rangers. Kovlachuk left before the start of Wednesday’s practice with soreness in his foot. This after Anderson told me he was 95 percent sure Kovalchuk would return from his broken foot. Anderson called him a game-time decision. Hours later the organization said he would not play and was not making the trip to New York. Hours after that we discovered that Kovlachuk did travel with the team to New York. Now he skated and may return tonight after all. Thus completing the full circle back to where we started. But what a trip.

UPDATE II: Kovalchuk and Kane in the lineup tonight. Jim Slater, Anssi Salmela and Spencer Machacek are the scratches.

I’ll leave the original blog below for those who care.

So we wake up this morning to find out that Ilya Kovalchuk has indeed traveled with the team to New York and there is a chance – although I’m told a small one – that he could play tonight against the Rangers.

I’ll check in after they have their morning skate and see if anything has changed. Thrashers skate at 11 a.m. so I should know more around lunch time.

Stay tuned for the lastest episode of  ‘How Kovy’s Foot Turns.’  Either way it looks like he will return in the next few days, so that’s sooner than expected.

Of news I’m more certain about, I’m told that Johan Hedberg will get the start tonight in goal. He’s coming off the shootout win over St. Louis on Sunday. Remember you heard it here first.

Since I’m working on my Sunday notes column this morning, I’ll share a couple of tidbits with you:

* Here’s coach John Anderson’s take on Nik Antropov being without a goal this season: “We talked to him about shooting more. He had like six or seven shots on net last game. His total [for the year] is 18. That’s my point to him. I think he got the message. The other thing we talked about is he’s a little stationary in front of the net. I want him in front of the net but a little bit more mobile so that any pucks that kick out, he’s not starting from a standing stop; he’s got a little movement so he gets to loose pucks first.”

* I came across this interesting note that you may have known, but I didn’t. Before Max Afinogenov’s first season as a rookie in Buffalo, his linemate on the AHL’s Rochester Americans was …. Thrashers assistant coach Randy Cunneyworth. It was Cunneyworth’s final year as a player/player coach. “I just knew to get him the puck,” Cunnyworth said.

* The off-ice Q&A will be with Eric Boulton. His hockey hero growing up? Wendel Clark.

We should have a good run here the next couple of weeks. Thrashers have five straight, and eight of the next 10, games at home. So we’ll have daily and game coverage during the run. Also, I’m working on a couple bigger stories. I talked with Pavel Kubina for a feature, I’m wrapping up a story on the Art of the Faceoff and I started reporting for a story on hockey wives. Talked to Mark Popovic’s wife about travelling all the way to Russia to continue his career.

Hope this at least gives you something to chew on before tonight’s game. Stay tuned.

55 comments Add your comment

Bob

November 12th, 2009
9:08 am

Please make sure you include pics of the puck bunnies, I mean hockey wives, in that feature, tks

Get The Puck Out

November 12th, 2009
9:18 am

Kovy needs to NOT get on the ice tonight if he has ANY doubts about his foot. We need him completely healed, not eighty percent, not ninety pecent, but one hundred percent. He is too valuable to this team to re-injure himself, so take it easy Kovy. We can’t wait to see you back, but we will.

Get The Puck Out

November 12th, 2009
9:19 am

Oh yeah SILVER.

Smoothie

November 12th, 2009
9:27 am

C-Viv, that’s very good reporting with respect to Antropov and JA’s comments about his play. I too had noticed that he gets too deep in the crease and due to his big body and reach, he makes it more difficult on himself getting to loose pucks that might not make it all the way to the end of his stick. A big part of hockey is always moving and being mobile so that you are ready to pounce on the opportunities that present themselves during a game (see DET versus the CBJ’s last nite!).

Michael B. Shapiro

November 12th, 2009
10:14 am

Even if Kovy doesn’t play, I think it’s GREAT than he traveled with the team. That’s what a Kapitan does, injured or otherwise! Outstanding to see him continue to lead, even off the ice. Go THRASH, beat dem Rain-jerks.

Darkhorse

November 12th, 2009
10:16 am

I thought Antro was known for playing some in the crease? You would think he wouldn’t have to be reminded about where to stand and react from when shots come from the perimeter. Tonight would be the perfect place for him to net one or two in front of his old team.

Agree with the Kovy saga. Please don’t play unless you feel 100%.

MashaPlayer7

November 12th, 2009
10:26 am

I can’t wait for the Art of Faceoff article. I don’t think non-hockey players realize how complex face-offs can be. Beyond size and skill, there is a lot of strategy that goes into it.

Andy S

November 12th, 2009
10:30 am

Kovy at 75% is better than most players at 100% so I’ll take it! As long as he doesn’t aggravate the injury more and keep himself from healing, I’m fine with him playing whenever he feels it’s safe.

J.B.

November 12th, 2009
11:27 am

According to Puck Daddy, Captain Kovalchuk has #3 of the 10 most significant goals scored in the last decade. Not Bad!

http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/The-10-most-significant-goals-of-the-last-decade?urn=nhl,202120#remaining-content

Chris Vivlamore

November 12th, 2009
11:31 am

Thrashers recall forward Spencer Machecek from Chicago.

J.B.

November 12th, 2009
11:37 am

is it possible Kovy decided to make the trip to NYC after all because he intends to high-tail it over to Grossman’s office to sign a big fat contract?

Toby

November 12th, 2009
11:38 am

Chris Vivlamore

November 12th, 2009
11:41 am

I am told the Kovalchuk did indeed take part in the Thrashers’ morning skate and is back to being a “game-time decision.”

J.B.

November 12th, 2009
11:42 am

…if it happens, I’m taking credit for calling it first, if only for my own amusement :-)

Chris Vivlamore

November 12th, 2009
11:44 am

MashaPlayer7: You are very correct. Faceoffs are so much more whacking at the puck. Ton of strategy, mind games – and of course a little cheating. Story is scheduled to run on Thursday, Nov. 19.

Alan R.

November 12th, 2009
11:55 am

It appears that your blog ate my comment last comment (posted directly after the one made by Andy S), Chris. Mind releasing it from Blog Purgatory™?

Chris Vivlamore

November 12th, 2009
11:57 am

Looks like Anderson said his gut feeling was both Kovalchuk and Kane will play tonight. And so it appears we have come full circle.

Chris Vivlamore

November 12th, 2009
11:58 am

Alan R: Let me see what I can do. I hate Blog Purgatory.

Smoothie

November 12th, 2009
12:44 pm

Chris, since you can’t be there, make sure Kamal or Darren E interviews Kovalchuk’s foot to see how he’s feeling after the morning skate!

Miami Screaming Eagle

November 12th, 2009
12:52 pm

JB-contract in NYC.
Kovy’s ink on the line would shut me up about the subject.

Mike

November 12th, 2009
12:52 pm

On ESPN.com, their Insider Rumor Mill says “Kovalchuck contract at an impasse”. I don’t have a subscription to get more details, but did anyone else see it?

The Earl of Bud

November 12th, 2009
12:56 pm

Less than 10% of the guys in the NHL are ever at 100% during the season, so chew on that. Everyone is banged up, don’t think that we can afford to wait for Kovalchuk to lollygag while a non-weight bearing bone gets an extra 5% healed. Granted I did say he should sit tonight, but only because it is B2B games and he might as well play the 2nd since he would only play in one of the two.

Great, so now I have Cunneyworth to thank due to his image of Max circa 1998. Should we also tell Cunney that Mambo #5 is no longer on the charts either? :)

Nice comments about Antro Chris. Smoothie/Darkhorse, while Nik is known for being able to stickhandle inside of a phone booth, he may just be standing on his heels too much. It might just be a little early season laziness versus actual knowledge of what to do.

Chris, remember, you can win the draw but lose the faceoff.

Any pond hockey players here remember doing faceoffs without a puck drop and you just starting with stick taps?

Alan R.

November 12th, 2009
1:03 pm

On ESPN.com, their Insider Rumor Mill says “Kovalchuck contract at an impasse”.

For a second there, I was beginning to wonder. Then I realized that since there’s no Kovalchuck on this team, all should be well.

J.B.

November 12th, 2009
1:26 pm

Miami Screaming Eagle – …pretty sure kovy signing a new contract would shut up everyone on the subject.

Alan – I don’t have the insider subscription either, but I have a hard time believing parties involved would let it negotiations get to an impasse as well have things have gone up to this point, or so we’re told, and as bad as the thrashers want and need kovy back.

I’m not sure how much stock I put into espn’s insider info anyway… you have to pay for it, their nhl coverage sux in general, and i think most of those come from EJ Hradek who’s probably still praising our young forward Byron Young who’s been spectacular in front of Lehtonen in Kovy’s absence. ( for you more literal-minded folks out there…)

[...] Ilya Kovulchuk is back to being a game-time decision, one that Thrashers coach John Anderson’s gut thinks will play, tonight against the Rangers. [...]

J.B.

November 12th, 2009
1:34 pm

…sorry, last comment was for Mike; not Alan R.

J.B.

November 12th, 2009
1:52 pm

just found this… not sure when the ‘impasse’ espn insider post was published, but this was put on the site tuesday:

Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell is scheduled to meet again with Ilya Kovalchuk’s agent, Jay Grossman, on Thursday. Kovalchuk, who could be back in the Thrashers’ lineup as early as Thursday, is slated for unrestricted free agency July 1, and the team has been pressing hard to try to get him to sign an extension. They don’t want it to drag on all season.

“Certainly we’ve had very constructive conversations,” Waddell told ESPN.com after Tuesday’s GM meetings. “We’ve had some more intense discussions, I would say, in the last couple of weeks, which I think will lead to a resolution to the situation in the near future. When I say the near future, I would say in the next few weeks I would hope.”

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/blog/index?entryID=4642932&name=lebrun_pierre

Jarndyce

November 12th, 2009
2:16 pm

Here are the tensions for a Kovalchuk contract:

1) Ilya wants a Cup. He’s likely wary of signing a long-term deal without more evidence that the team will continue to pursue a Cup, and not just put 20 players on the ice.

2) DW, et al, want/need to sign Ilya to a long-term deal as both a signal to the fans that they are serious about the team, and to lock up a world-class player for as long as possible to avoid this same scenario.

3) Ilya can get paid by most any team in the league whatever salary he desires. DW can offer only ease of transaction and a consistent home. He can’t overpay. That simply isn’t an option.

How does this get resolved? Well, if you assume Ilya is willing to sign here at all, then (subject to CBA restrictions):

A) Salary max contract, 5-6 years in term.
B) Player option to void contract after two years if certain goals are not met (i.e., minimum team payroll levels, no playoff appearances past first round, etc).
C) Player bonuses if certain goals are met (Kovy top 5 in league goals, etc).
Each side needs protection and incentives. That’s the only way this deal gets made. And I don’t see it happening until February or so…

LAC

November 12th, 2009
4:26 pm

Just like Hossa, this is getting to be a BIG distraction, esp for the PAYING FANS. Does he realize how the fans feel ? But with the teams waddell has fielded over his decade of failure here, how would ANYONE have confidence in anthing waddell says or does.

waddell may be a nice guy, but he is plain STUPID as a GM and is a constant LIAR to boot !

Good news for a change

November 12th, 2009
4:50 pm

LAC, don’t you think Waddell wants it resolved as fast as you do?

Dwayne

November 12th, 2009
4:54 pm

I have little or no faith in Don, but Rick Dudley might be the silent partner that can gets us out of the cellar and into being a cup contending team. Kovy knows this can not be done overnight. I like Jarndyces’ scenario, gives both partys’ some out clauses?? Is that the right term?? Much to a lot of Thrasher fans,,,,,here it comes STENDEC…a healthy Kari is the key. Here is why, why would a top goal tender want to play in JA’s system, even with better D-men, we are still giving up 62.32 shots per game.

worl3

November 12th, 2009
4:55 pm

I would not believe anything ESPN sez, they are close to the level of Canadian media. Besides, they know nothing about hockey. ESPN doesn’t like Atlanta either.

Jarndyce–pretty good post, though I am not toally with you on #3. Teams will be looking at the $$$. I still think his best $$$ contract is here.

World Be Free

November 12th, 2009
4:56 pm

Oops, hit enter
worl3 is me.

The Earl of Bud

November 12th, 2009
5:08 pm

Alan R. – nice catch, pretty pathetic that they can’t even get the name right of one of the leading stars in the league.

J.B. – are you talking about someone with the Wolves?

Good news – I think the best thing to think about is along the lines of Jarndyce. What would it take to get done or why hasn’t it. Since none of us are in Waddudley’s office everyday (unless there is a secret employee posting on this blog haha) we can logically guess at what will happen and when it will happen.

Chris – is Pops or Schubert in tonight (or both)?

The Earl of Bud

November 12th, 2009
5:12 pm

Dwayne – if we are dependent on a healthy Lehtonen then will are all doomed. Hate to say it but c’mon already, it’s Pavelec’s team now and Lehtonen won’t get off the shelf ever again.

The Earl of Bud

November 12th, 2009
5:13 pm

“then WE are all doomed” not “will are all doomed”

Rockem Sockem Thrasher

November 12th, 2009
6:04 pm

So is Spencer Machacek going to play tonight or is he a “healthy scratch”?

MB

November 12th, 2009
6:26 pm

Once again, NHL’s online version of Game Center disappoints…no Thrashers v. Rangers. So far, I’ve been very underwhelmed by this “service.”

Royal T

November 12th, 2009
6:30 pm

so is there any final word on if Kovy is in tonight?

Chris Vivlamore

November 12th, 2009
6:52 pm

Kovalchuk and Kane are in the lineup tonight. The scratches are Slater, Salmela and Machacek.

Jmayne

November 12th, 2009
7:00 pm

Whats the official lines? Anyone

Rockem Sockem Thrasher

November 12th, 2009
7:01 pm

Why call Machacek up if he’s not going to play? Aren’t teams limited as to the number of times a player can be called up?

Sara

November 12th, 2009
9:00 pm

Rockem Sockem – Machacek was called up because we had 2 forwards who were game time decisions – if both guys couldn’t go, we’d have only had 11 forwards. And I don’t think there’s a limit on call-ups as long as it’s because of injury.

Rockem Sockem Thrasher

November 12th, 2009
9:23 pm

Thanks for the update. On a different subject, any chance Carl Klingberg plays in the US (Chicago Wolves) this year?

Mike

November 12th, 2009
10:24 pm

Earl and Alan…soooo sorry for mis-typing Kovalchuk. Damn. Hopefully spelling it right this time will help you get through the night. BTW…season ticket holder who simply was in a hurry due to a busy day in the office.

KnightInATL

November 12th, 2009
10:53 pm

BALLS!!! That what Kovalchuk showed tonight at MSG! Didn’t make the trip to NY with the team as he was not cleared to play. Woke up and said “Screw It! I ain’t letting my teammates down tonight!” Catches a flight, plays, scores a goal, tallies 3 points and gets the #1 Star of the game.

That, Ladies and Gentlemen is what makes a Leader.

I would take Kovy over anybody else in the league…..ANYBODY.

The Earl of Bud

November 12th, 2009
11:12 pm

Actually Mike I thought it was ESPN that spelled it wrong, read my post. But thanks for letting us all know that you are a season ticket holder.

On to more important things, Kovalchuk looked fantastic. As did Peverley. It will be interesting how this group of road warriors plays at home tomorrow night.

So are the coaches trying to get Max more points? This isn’t one of my Max rants, just an honest question. If the guy is a known defensive liability, and we all know that he is, why is he on the ice for such a long shift at the end of the game? He should be the last guy out there, but with the chance to get an ENG, they keep him out there past multiple whistles and shift change opportunities even though he is a horrible defensive player.

I’m really curious if our wounded foot soldiers will be on the ice tomorrow.

Brendan

November 13th, 2009
12:47 am

Finny missed an open net on a stretch feed pass from Kovalchuk in the 2nd period. But he did “salt it away,” to cement the win, with the “insurance goal.” Again, a stat NOT KEPT by the NHL. But all four (4) of Max’s goals have mattered. He’s tied with Kane for goal production. I still can’t believe Max has four, but Antropov doesn’t have any. But I’m not complaining. Nik’s numbers are pretty decent. He’s piling up “helpers.” Kovy got his 10th. Amazing. In his first game back, he has a 3-point night.

stendec

November 13th, 2009
7:33 am

Congratulations! Fantastic victory Thrashers. Always means just a little bit more when fall guys are overrated New York Ranjerks! Moose allowed a couple of soft goals which were painful but did man up on a few stellar saves especially one which I thought was going to be a sure goal. Believed Thrashers would triumph when score went to 4-2 but also thought it would come down to final seconds. Made empty netter that much sweeter. Pleasantly shocked to see Captain Ilya Kovalchuk back on ice! Way to gut it out guy. Presence gave team a lift. Nice night all around. Thanks everyone! Keep up gritty effort. Especially in home arena! Peace. ++STENDEC

Dwayne

November 13th, 2009
7:43 am

EOB, I am not giving up on Kari. Blind loyalty? I just think a healthy Kari gives us a better shot every nite. Healthy being the key word.
Plus, I know how much Stendec loves Kari.
Does anyone feel Opie and Moose can do whats needed when crunch time comes??