Thrashers’ Kovalchuk Out for Season
March 12, 2002
By Associated Press
March 12, 2002
Atlanta Thrashers forward Ilya Kovalchuk, the leading goal scorer on his team and among NHL rookies, will miss the rest of the season with a dislocated right shoulder.
But general manager Don Waddell said the 18-year-old left wing should be completely healthy in about two months with no lingering effects.
Kovalchuk, the top pick in last year's draft, fell awkwardly and banged his right shoulder into the boards during Sunday's 6-1 loss to the New York Islanders.
Thrashers coach Curt Fraser said replays showed Kovalchuk fell after accidentally stepping on the puck with his left skate. He collided with Islanders forward Shawn Bates and crashed into the end boards at 3:39 of the second period.
"Ilya went at him," Fraser said. "He couldn't stop himself from falling into the boards."
The Thrashers are already last in the NHL with only 43 points and riding a five-game losing streak in which they have been outscored 22-6. Atlanta has 16 games remaining.
Kovalchuk leads the team and all first-year players with 29 goals. He also ranks second among rookies with 51 points, trailing teammate Dany Heatley by two points.
Neither Waddell nor Fraser had spoken with Kovalchuk since he was hospitalized in Manhattan. They expected him to return to Atlanta on Monday.
"It's really a four- to six-week injury," Waddell said. "But given where we're at, there's no need to try and rush it."
Last summer, Kovalchuk became the first Russian selected No. 1 overall in the NHL draft. He played last month for his native country in the Salt Lake City Olympics, winning a bronze medal.
"He's obviously a very important member of our team, and it's a big blow to our hockey club," Fraser said. "But players get hurt, and you push on. We want to finish the season strong."
Waddell wasn't planning to fill Kovalchuk's roster spot immediately, though he singled out five players at the Thrashers' AHL affiliate in Chicago — J.P. Vigier, Dan Snyder, Brad Tapper, Kamil Piros and Darcy Hordichuk — as possibilities.
Heatley now becomes the leading candidate to win the Calder Trophy, which goes to the NHL's top rookie.
"I haven't even thought about that," Heatley said. "The only time we think about it is when you guys talk about it. Other than that, we're just worried about playing hockey."
Last updated: 12-Mar-02