Ilya Kovalchuk has been avoiding questions about his health and his lack of scoring for days, and nothing has changed with the New Jersey Devils on the brink of being eliminated from the playoffs by the Florida Panthers.
Asked about his health, the superstar right wing smiled, and said he was fine. He said rumors about a groin injury were inaccurate.
When questioned about having only two goals in five games, Kovalchuk steered the conversation to the Devils playing well in their own end.
What Kovalchuk was willing to talk about was his team. He likes the Devils' chances in Game Six against the Panthers tonight (7:30 p.m., NBCSN) at the Prudential Center, and knows what he has to do to force a deciding Game Seven in this first-round East series.
The game plan won't be for Kovalchuk to singlehandedly carry the Devils, who are on the verge of exiting the playoffs in the first round for the fourth time in a row, save for last season of course, when they didn't even qualify.
"It's not an individual sport," said Kovalchuk, the Devils' leading scorer in the regular season. "The worst thing I can do is try to do everything by myself. It has never worked out. I have tried it a lot of times in the past when I was frustrated and did things I shouldn't do. That's when you get yourself and the team in trouble.
"We're a great team all year long and we just have to do what the coaches say."
The Devils need to show a lot more intensity than they did in dropping a 3-0 decision in Game Five on Saturday to fall behind, 3-2, in the series.