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Kovalchuk (shoulder) practices; DeBoer: ‘I’d take him at less than 100 percent’

Apr 9, 2013, 9:25 PM EDT

Ilya Kovalchuk Getty Images

Desperate times may call for desperate measures in New Jersey.

The Devils are winless since losing sniper Ilya Kovalchuk to a shoulder injury seven games ago, and have scored just 12 goals.

On Tuesday, the Russian winger returned to practice — and head coach Peter DeBoer suggested there might not be many more practices before he puts Kovalchuk back into the lineup.

“We’re not going to put his safety in jeopardy,” DeBoer told NHL.com. “But we’re not going to wait until he’s 100 percent to get him back. That’s not realistic.”

The Devils haven’t said what’s wrong with Kovalchuk’s shoulder, only offering a timetable for return (2-4 weeks).

Kovalchuk hasn’t said much either, other than he was in a lot of pain and still hasn’t been able to take hard shots.

“You gotta just keep yourself in shape and do what the trainers and the doctors tell you to,” Kovalchuk explained. “We’ve got a great group of guys here who are very professional and I trust them 100 percent.

“I just try to work hard. We all know the situation we are in and I want to be back as soon as possible.”

The Devils have nine games left in their season, including Wednesday night’s Rivalry Game against the Boston Bruins (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

They currently sit ninth in the East, two back of the eighth-place Islanders for the conference’s final playoff spot.

It stands to reason they won’t be making the postseason without Kovalchuk in the lineup — regardless if he’s at full health or not.

“”I’d take him at less than 100 percent,” DeBoer said. “But he’s got work to do before he’s an option.”

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