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Kovalchuk: “We’ll be better next year”

Los Angeles Kings v New Jersey Devils - Game One

NEWARK, NJ - MAY 30: Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the New Jersey Devils looks on prior to Game One of the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings at the Prudential Center on May 30, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t have a highlight-reel filling Stanley Cup finals. He scored just one goal, an empty-net tally in Game 4, and his Devils went down in six games to the Los Angeles Kings in his first real shot at winning it all.

Kovalchuk would have every reason to be sad and upset but instead he’s hopeful for the future as he tells Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger.

“All year long we showed a lot of character,” Ilya Kovalchuk said. “We played well on the road. We never gave up. We made it interesting, but it wasn’t enough.

“Like I said, those losses have to make us stronger. There was a lot of positive stuff. We’ll be better next year.”

Whether or not the Devils will actually be better next year is hard to bank on. They’ll return a lot of the same team, including Martin Brodeur (link), so that’s a good start. One guy they may be without though is Zach Parise as he’s an impending unrestricted free agent on July 1.

If Parise signs elsewhere, the Devils will have a very hard time replacing his skills. The Devils will need a lot more of the strong team play to make it happen. The only thing we know for sure is to never count the Devils out. Right when you think they’ll go away, they always find a way to surprise.