New Jersey Devils head coach Pete DeBoer confirmed on Wednesday that Ilya Kovalchuk was playing hurt throughout the postseason.
Speaking to the media on team photo day, DeBoer spoke of his winger's back ailment. "It was quite a bit under 100 percent," DeBoer said. "It's a back injury. It's not like a broken bone where you have a real handle on it, but it wasn't close to 100 percent."
Kovalchuk racked up eight goals and 11 assists in 23 playoff games, including one goal in six games of the Stanley Cup Final. He missed the second game of the Eastern Conference semifinal against the Philadelphia Flyers because of the injury.
"I thought he showed a lot of guts, a lot of character. He didn't want to come out. He had a significant enough injury at different points that he easily could've come out and he didn't even want to go down that road. That's a testament to his character."
Kovalchuk didn't want to talk about the injury but said he wasn't sure if he would need surgery.
"It doesn't make any sense to talk about it now," Kovalchuk said. "It's all over. It's a bad excuse. I don't think one guy on the ice was 100 percent healthy. You have to take care of yourself the next couple of months and be ready for next year."