Left wing Ilya Kovalchuk was a healthy scratch for the Los Angeles Kings in their 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night, and the team wouldn't say how long he will be out of the lineup.
Sportsnet Canada reported before the game that the Kings informed Kovalchuk he is being benched for an extended period. General manager Rob Blake and coach Todd McLellan refused to say whether it was for one game only or longer.
The 36-year-old Russian had two goals and four assists in Los Angeles' first four games but has only one goal and two assists in the past 13.
"He was a healthy scratch, but tomorrow is a new day," McLellan said after the game. "He is on board and has opportunities to go back in."
McLellan said he is treating Kovalchuk the same way he would other players who are struggling. The coach cited right wing Tyler Toffoli being a healthy scratch for a game two weeks ago and left wing Adrian Kempe also being scratched on Tuesday. Those two players, though, don't have the star power or $18.75 million, three-year contract Kovalchuk does.
"If they had to come out and watch one, then so does he. We treat them the same," McLellan said.
The Kings are tied with Minnesota and Ottawa for the fewest points in the NHL with 13 and are 2-6-1 in their last nine games.
Blake said he met with Kovalchuk before the game, but the decision to bench him was made by McLellan.
"We're in last place, right? We changed a lot of lineups," Blake said. "We're trying to find combinations that work, try to score some goals."
This is the second straight year that Kovalchuk has found himself in and out of the lineup, which team captain Anze Kopitar said was not what anyone envisioned.
"It's not a great situation," Kopitar said. "Kovy is a good guy. There's nothing wrong with the attitude or anything. For whatever reason, it is not working on the ice."
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