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Ex-Thrashers teammates Kovalchuk and Hedberg fueling Devils run

At a time when the New Jersey Devils were reeling and just seeking an identity, longtime teammates Ilya Kovalchuk and Johan Hedberg stepped to the forefront to help provide some hope after a tumultuous start to the season.

Of course, a coaching change played a big part in that equation as well. Remember when the Devils were the League’s cellar dwellers at 9-22-2?

That seems like ancient history right about now.

New Jersey has averaged 2.7 goals per game since Jacques Lemaire took the reins two days before Christmas and have a 13-8-2 overall mark to show for it. They’ve been without cornerstone player Zach Parise since November following knee surgery and future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur has been in and out of the lineup, missing the last 3 games after suffering a inoperable right knee sprain Feb. 6 in Montreal.

Enter Kovalchuk and Hedberg, who spent four seasons together in Atlanta before coming to New Jersey.

“When the coach trusts you 100 percent and he puts you in all situations, that’s when you feel you’re on the top of your game,” Kovalchuk told NHL.com. “That was the biggest difference. Lately, we play better as a team and everybody has taken one step up.”

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