Kovalchuk sustained a shoulder injury against the Florida Panthers on March 23 and has not played since. The 29-year-old returned to practice 10 days ago but was limited in the scope of drills he could participate in. Kovalchuk noted he was unable to attempt slap shots.
On Friday, Kovalchuk stated he felt the best he has through the recovery process and was able to attempt one-timers, as well as receive contact.
While the Devils have not yet been mathematically limited from postseason contention, the chances of their qualifying are dwindling. Despite this, Kovalchuk believes it's necessary for him to return to the lineup, via the Bergen Record:
"I don't care if we will be mathematically out or not. We're all professionals. The fans deserve to see the best effort and we will fight to the last second of the last game anyway whatever happens. So, it's not even in my mind to sit out the (rest of) year."
Head coach Peter DeBoer stated he is comfortable with Kovalchuk returning as long as he can give and receive contact. Obviously, his biggest concern is Kovalchuk potentially re-injuring the area.
The Devils will return to action against the Florida Panthers on Saturday afternoon.