Ilya Kovalchuk returns to New Jersey Devils lineup this afternoon against Florida Panthers

It may be too late for the New Jersey Devils, but they'll make a last ditch, miracle effort to get back in the Stanley Cup Playoff race with Ilya Kovalchuk on their roster.

The 30-year-old Russian star will play in the Devils' matinee against the Panthers. It'll be his first game action since March 23, also against the Panthers, when Kovalchuk lost an edge and crashed awkwardly into the boards. He's missed time with an upper-body injury since. Steve Sullivan will come out of the Devils lineup to make room for Kovalchuk.

The Devils could certainly use the proven sniper back in the lineup. New Jersey's season has fallen off a cliff without Kovalchuk. They went just 1-6-4 without him in the lineup, scoring just 19 goals in the 11 games he missed. New Jersey was shut out three times during that stretch. Kovalchuk has 10 goals and 17 assists this season in 32 games played. He leads the NHL in shorthanded goals with four.

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