Ilya Kovalchuk’s injury mystery deepens after Game 1 disappointment for Devils

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The zero on Ilya Kovalchuk's Game 1 stat line vs. the Philadelphia Flyers was stunning.

Not the zero goals — the zero shots, which had happened only twice in the regular season, all the way back in November and October 2011.

Then there was the ice time: 21:20, his lowest total since March 31 against Carolina.

Then there was the observational evidence that the New Jersey Devils' leading scorer didn't have the same explosive skating and puck control he's known for — along with a gaffe on a play in the attacking zone that helped lead to Danny Briere's breakaway goal.

Something was amiss, and seemed to be in Game 7 against the Panthers as well. This was confirmed by the Devils on Monday:

Kovalchuk is undergoing some type of therapy ahead of Tuesday night's Game 2.

From Tom Gulitti of Fire and Ice:

A team spokesperson said Kovalchuk had gone to "therapy" and will be meeting up with the Devils later today in Philadelphia. He will apparently not be joining the team on its bus ride to Philadelphia this afternoon for Tuesday night's Game 2 against the Flyers.

Although Kovalchuk appears to have been struggling with some kind of injury throughout the playoffs—believed to be his lower back—he has repeatedly said when asked that he is healthy. Devils coach Pete DeBoer said he expects to have all players available for Tuesday's game.

From the Star-Ledger, the Devils were dodgy about Kovalchuk's status:

Coach Pete DeBoer was asked how he thought Kovalchuk played.

"I think the answer to that is pretty clear. Pretty obvious," DeBoer said. "It's never for lack of effort with Kovy. You look around the series and great players go through stretches where things aren't working for them and then everything is working for them. You just have to work your way through it."

I asked captain Zach Parise if he was worried about Kovalchuk. "Why? No. He'll be alright," Parise said.

Already down 1-0 to the Flyers, the Devils are toast without a productive Ilya Kovalchuk. He's already taking flack for not producing in Game 1, and that pressure will only build. The Devils were 9-14-3 in games in which Kovalchuk didn't register a point during the regular season.