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Devils Alley: Ilya Kovalchuk to Miss Home-and-Home Against Washington This Weekend

KovytodayNew Jersey Devils head coach Pete DeBoer announced at practice that Ilya Kovalchuk will not play tonight against the Capitals and will not travel to Washington for tomorrow night's game.

Kovalchuk has not played since he suffered a lower body injury against Philadelphia on November 3rd. The Devils have gone 2-0 with Kovalchuk on the bench, and players like Adam Henrique and Patrik Elias have stepped up in his place.

"Unlike a broken bone where there's a definite timeline on it, it really is we show up, see how it feels and make a decision," coach DeBoer told the Bergen Record. "He's feeling good about it, but we're going to retain the right to daily make a decision on him."

The Devils will be faced with the challenge of keeping up with the Capitals, who are currently second in the NHL in scoring with 3.77 goals per game. Washington has been involved in high scoring affairs all season, and have given up at least four goals in four of their last five games (2-3).

With Kovalchuk out, the Devils will need Zach Parise to step up on the first line. Adam Henrique has been a spark since moving to the first line, but Parise has been quiet in the past week or so.

“I think I can do more,” Parise told Tom Gulitti. “I know I can do more. There’s no question I’m an offensive guy and I want to put up some points. I expect myself to. But I know that they’re going to come.”

Nick Palmieri will replace Kovalchuk on the first line tonight after David Clarkson was experimented with Parise and Henrique. Palmieri has struggled to find the net this season with just one goal and a -4 rating, but DeBoer hopes the move will put a spark in him. Tonight's lines will be as follows:

Parise-Henrique-Palmieri
Sykora-Elias-Zubrus
Tedenby-Carter-Clarkson
Zharkov-Mills-Janssen

Zharkov will be making his first start of the season as Rod Pelley continues to sit out. DeBoer hopes Zharkov will bring energy to the fourth line and will complement Mills and Janssen.

As expected, Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg will split the back to back games against the Capitals. Brodeur will start tonight at home while Hedberg will start tomorrow in Washington. Brodeur has won two straight games against Winnipeg and Carolina.

One thing to watch for will be the Capitals power play. Washington is currently third in the NHL with a 25 percent success rate on the power play, while New Jersey is third in the NHL in penalty kill at 91.7 percent.

The Devils are looking to win their fourth straight game, while the Capitals are trying to snap a two game losing streak. Washington has won three of the last four meetings against New Jersey dating back to 2010, including a 3-0 win on March 18th, 2011.

Follow Joe on Twitter: @jkuchie

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