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Kovalchuk's schedule (update)

UPDATE: Ilya Kovalchuk is still on the mend and won't be in the lineup when the struggling New Jersey Devils host the Ottawa Senators Friday night.

Kovalchuk didn't participate in the Devils' morning skate but worked out on the team's practice rink with a few injured teammates. Afterward, coach Pete DeBoer said his best player isn't ready to return just yet.

"It was obvious he's not close enough to help us or help himself," DeBoer told reporters, including the Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti. "I don't think he's far off but definitely not tonight."

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A somewhat-healthy Ilya Kovalchuk is apparently better than no Kovalchuk at all. The Star-Ledger reports the New Jersey Devils intend to activate their star forward before he's fully recovered.

"I'd take him at less than 100 percent," coach Pete DeBoer said Tuesday. "He has work to do before he's an option. We're not going to put his safety in jeopardy, but we're not going to wait until he's 100 percent to get him back in. That's not realistic."

Rich Chere suggests Kovalchuk could return for the Devils as early as Friday, versus the Ottawa Senators. Considered day-to-day with a shoulder injury, the winger was able to pass the puck "pretty hard" during Tuesday's practice. The Devils, sitting ninth in the East, haven't won since Kovalchuk sustained the injury while crashing into the boards Mar. 23 against the Florida Panthers.