The Devils, Ilya Kovalchuk and Protecting 1-Goal Leads

It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if Ilya Kovalchuk leaves the New Jersey Devils (whether that be after this season or several years down the line) as a better all-around player than he was the day he arrived. Would you expect anything less from Jacques Lemaire, the master of structure and defensive hockey?

Since the Devils acquired Kovalchuk in early February, they’ve had no hesitation when it comes to playing him in late-game situations to protect the slimmest of leads. It’s something he didn’t always get the opportunity to do in Atlanta this season, unless a prime opportunity presented itself (power play, offensive zone face-off, etc.)….

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