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Getting Kovalchuk off His Game

There’s one player who seems to have Cliffs Notes on taking Ilya Kovalchuk off his game.

It’s not a top-pair defensive defenseman nor anyone who will ever have to clear space for a Selke Trophy on his shelf. 

No, the one guy who can infuriate Kovalchuk to the point of ineffectiveness is none other than Sean Avery

While the New York Rangers are going to have trouble finding answers for New Jersey’s top line—if their 4 goals and 8 assists combined in two games are any indication—Ilya will likewise lack an answer for just what it is that bothers him so much about Avery. 

And that could be an issue.

“Why do you let him bother you?” Kovalchuk was asked after New Jersey’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Rangers Saturday night.

He listened to the question, pondered it a second and responded, “I don’t know.”

For whatever reason, Avery has been able to rub Kovalchuk like coarse sandpaper from the start.

When the Rangers swept the Atlanta Thrashers from the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kovalchuk was more concerned with chasing down Avery than saving the team’s first ever playoff appearance.

More of the same came in Kovalchuk’s second game after his trade to New Jersey last February.  A few words from Avery were enough to make Ilya—a player so far out of Avery’s league no analogy would do the disparity any justice—drop the gloves.


And, that’s all it took against the Rangers on Saturday, as well.

Avery finished a check on Brian Rolston, but refused to fight David Clarkson—surprise, surprise—who came to settle the score.  As he skated away, Avery pulled out the mouthpiece for to make room for more pleasant words for Kovalchuk.  Before many could get out, some shoving ensued and a few punches were thrown, though none really landed before Avery was beneath a pile of Devils.

Later in the game they exchanged pleasantries once again across the benches, which surprisingly included a threatening ear-to-ear gesture across the throat, from, of all people, Kovalchuk. 

As an aside, that move might very well make Ilya miss opening night.  Nick Boynton was just suspended for the very same motion, something the league is cracking down on this season.  That’s, of course, assuming consistency in the suspension department, a topic for another time.

That same member of the media who asked the original question offered Ilya some advice, asking something along the lines of “Why don’t you just ignore him?”

“I will do this,” Kovalchuk responded. “I will listen to you.”

He hasn’t done so well with ignoring Sean Avery so far. 

Here’s to hoping he learns how. 


Filed in: NHL Teams, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: ilya+kovalchuk, sean+avery


K24's avatar

Avery finished a check on Brian Rolston, but refused to fight David Clarkson—surprise, surprise—who came to settle the score.

If it wasn’t a dirty check, why should he have to fight?  Can’t Rolston take a hit?

Posted by K24 from NYC on 09/26/10 at 10:07 AM ET


I’m on your side here, believe it or not. 

This relatively new, unspoken sort of rule that landing a heavy check requires a player to fight is more or less absurd.

So in no way was I saying Sean needed to fight, just that it isn’t surprising that he wouldn’t

A guy doesn’t earn the nickname “The Turtle” by accident.  Nor does he get voted the most hated player by his peers without some kind of reason.  Not answering for his actions was likely a contributing factor to that.

But he is very effective at what he does.  I can’t argue with that.  Neither can Ilya.

Posted by Michael Smith from New Jersey on 09/26/10 at 10:56 AM ET

shanetx's avatar

A guy doesn’t earn the nickname “The Turtle” by accident. 

It isn’t as much that Avery has earned the nickname Turtle, but that people find it appropriate and enjoyable to insult him by applying the original Turtle’s nickname to him.  The similarities are obvious.

It would be similar to referring to a new, upcoming, defenseman with a knack for indefensibly dirty plays and a strong desire to injure his opponents as Toughie Uffie (though that example is a big of a reach since that nickname is based on a common petname-type twisting of Samuelsson’s name).

Posted by shanetx from Floydada, Texas on 09/26/10 at 01:48 PM ET


When did Avery get the nickname “turtle”?,that’s pure BS.
He gets in Kovalchuk’s head every time they play against each other,Avery knows he can’t beat Clarkson so he doesn’t fight him,he tries to draw penalties by yapping at Clarkson and should have last night.When’s the last time you saw a player drop his gloves and not at least get a penalty?
The NHL would love nothing more then to see Avery out of the league and it’s very obvious to an objective hockey fan.I’m a Ranger fan and I don’t like some of Avery’s antics,but he fights more then a lot of guys,he fights other middle weights,he’s not goig to fight a guy like clarkson who’s amuch more accomplished fighter.

Posted by nyr3439 on 09/26/10 at 03:51 PM ET


He made a zip it motion across his lips, not a throat slash. Before you get all bent out of shape try actually watching the replay or reading any of the NY & NJ papers

Posted by Graves on 09/26/10 at 05:51 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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