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Kovalchuk insists he never planned on staying in KHL

Jan 16, 2013, 10:20 PM EDT

Ilya Kovalchuk AP

Ilya Kovalchuk participated in his first day of New Jersey Devils training camp on Wednesday, but perhaps most importantly, he made it clear he was happy to be there.

The high-end sniper took time to dismiss various KHL-related rumors with Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger.

“I have a contract here and in the KHL they have a rule that as soon as the lockout ends we have to go back,” Kovalchuk said. “Nobody has a choice. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind I was going to come back.”

Perhaps the “nobody has a choice” line indicates that part of him wishes he could finish 2012-13 overseas, but he stomped out what was left of the scuttlebutt – including laughing off some odd stuff about Russian president Vladimir Putin trying to convince him to stay.

“No, that’s not true. I’m sure he’s got some other stuff to take care of,” Kovalchuk said. “I had a great time there, we had a good team but I have a contract here. I’m happy I’m back. I’m happy we’re all back because I think it’s going to be an exciting season.”

More good news: head coach Peter DeBoer liked what he saw from the jet-lagged star today.

“For a guy who got off a plane after I don’t know how long a travel day it was for him, I thought he looked pretty good. It’s nice to have him back,” DeBoer said.

They certainly need him, especially with Adam Henrique on the mend.

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