Get Ready to See More of Ilya Kovalchuk (in a Devils Uniform)

Get Ready to See More of Ilya Kovalchuk (in a Devils Uniform)

If you've been tracking the trade rumors involving Ilya Kovalchuk, chances are you know that a few hours ago, a trade was finalized that would send the sniper to New Jersey for a package of Johnny Oduya, Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier, and their 2010 first round pick. Former Devil Anssi Salmela will head to Jersey as well. 

So what's this mean to us? The first wave of impact for most Flyers fans will be that the Devils, who've routinely given our teams fits for more than a decade, just added a forward who is more talented than any they've ever had. 

They still have Marty Brodeur and a sound defensive system—a combination that has produced the lowest goals-against total in the NHL so far this season. And now, they also have the guy who has scored the second most goals in the league since the lockout, behind only Alex Ovechkin. Offense was an area in which the Devils were somewhat lacking, particularly lately. They just addressed that situation in as big a way possible, and they didn't give up all that much to rent or test-drive Kovy. 

I won't pretend to be an expert in the Devils' younger players and prospects, but here's their end of the deal as I understand it. Bergfors, a rookie whose stats we've seen alongside JVR's in the freshman scoring races, was off to a good start this season, but he's walled out somewhat recently. A pending RFA after this season, he's expected to develop into a nice player, and his name also indicates that he plays Peter Forsberg's foil in Bizarro World. Oduya was rewarded with a new contract last off-season but hasn't been too great in an injury-affected 09-10. He currently has just 4 points and a plus-2 rating after putting up 29 with a plus-21 last season. And the high prospect Cormier? Well, maybe he'll have a different kind of impact next season. Not long ago, Cormier was best known as Team Canada's captain in the World Juniors; now he's a popular hit on YouTube. The Devils' first-round pick will probably be toward the end of the round. 

Yes, sadly, this looks like a good trade for the Devils, even if they can't re-sign Kovalchuk after this season when he becomes a FA. Any speculation as to whether he'll be in Jersey beyond this year is probably premature. But, although the price will be high (he just turned down Thrashers' extension offers, one of which was said to average $10 million per season, representing the NHL's most lucrative annual salary), it's still possible. 

The trade was wisely primarily about this season for New Jersey though. Martin Brodeur has been their biggest meal ticket since the days of Chris Terreri's funky facemask, and they need to get in any legitimate Cup runs they can while they still have the best goalie in the history of the sport. 

And guess what! We'll get to see Devils+aBonaFideScorer in a home and home series next week—at the Wach on Monday and in Jerz on Wednesday. 

Although the Flyers were said to be an interested party in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes, it doesn't sound like it ever go too far. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise given the cap constraints the team has been up against for a few seasons, the contract Kovy has now, and the massive numbers he wants in the future. But Kevin Allen, the USA Today writer who broke this huge trade story, says that the Flyers were never willing to give up Jeff Carter or James vanRiemsdyk. 

Carter is under contract, and at a relatively manageable number. His stats this season haven't held up to the standard he set last season, when he actually scored more goals than Kovalchuk (by a margin of three goals, while having played three more games). However, that output has been at least the norm for Kovy, who already has 31 goals this season, versus the exception for Carter. But the bigger point here is that the Flyers were nothing more than a storyline in all of this, which was true of a handful of teams. Maybe they helped spike the price for the Devils, but it doesn't appear to have been by much. 

The biggest point is that the Devils are a more dangerous threat than they were yesterday, and just in time for two matchups with the Flyers. This was the ah-shit scenario for Flyers fans, as well as the other Eastern Conference contenders. You really would have liked the weather in LA, Ilya. Please be sure to visit California before you sign your next contract.   

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).