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Former Devils coach: Teammates won’t hold grudge against Kovalchuk

Jan 11, 2013, 8:30 PM EDT

Ilya Kovalchuk Getty Images

Ilya Kovalchuk has made headlines lately by expressing his desire to finish the season in the KHL despite his contractual obligations with the New Jersey Devils.

In the end, he will rejoin the New Jersey Devils, but only after participating in the KHL All-Star Game on Sunday. Consequently, he’ll miss the start of the Devils’ training camp.

Patrik Elias took exception to that, but in the long run, former New Jersey Devils coach Jacques Lemaire doesn’t think it will be a big deal.

“Guys don’t care about that. Maybe in the beginning when they hear what he says they have some comments, but that is forgotten quickly,” Lemaire told The Star-Ledger. “You have to forgive and forget. I don’t think the other guys will care about any of this.”

Lemaire thinks that Kovalchuk’s actions show his appreciation to the KHL and his lockout team, St. Petersburg SKA, rather than suggest that he is less than happy with the New Jersey Devils.

New Jersey Devils forwards David Clarkson and Travis Zajac echoed Lemaire’s remarks.

“He’s one of those guys that everyone in the room loves. He’s a leader,” Clarkson said.

Kovalchuk has also been a leader in the KHL with 42 points in 36 games while serving as St. Petersburg’s captain.

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