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Everyone (in New Jersey) loves Ilya Kovalchuk

New Jersey Devils v New York Rangers - Game Two

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 16: Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the New Jersey Devils celebrates his first period goal with teammate Travis Zajac #19 in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 16, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

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Ilya Kovalchuk has had a big year and a big playoffs, so far, for the New Jersey Devils. While many Russian players have been getting a bad rap during the playoffs for one reason or another, Kovalchuk is viewed as being a prince among men in the Devils’ locker room.

Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice hears it from a few different Devils players about what Kovalchuk has meant to the team and their locker room. Coach Peter DeBoer was particularly thoughtful about what Kovalchuk means to the team.

“This guy’s a good person and a good teammate,” DeBoer said. “Superstars often get bad raps, especially Russian superstars. That couldn’t be further from the case. This guy could be born in Canada or the United States and you wouldn’t know the difference other than his accent. He’s here to win. He’s a team-first guy. He’s very unselfish. He’s just a great person.

“I don’t think that’s common knowledge around the league.”

Most people think of Kovalchuk and his awkward exit from the Atlanta Thrashers as well as his previous playoff failures. Now with the Devils in the Eastern Conference finals and him being a big part of it, Kovalchuk is winning people over as well as games on the ice.