Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Michael Smith on 09/26/10 at 02:49 AM ET
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.
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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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