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Kings' Ilya Kovalchuk 'ready to go' amid reports of imminent release

Arun Srinivasan
Contributor
Ilya Kovalchuk's return to the NHL probably didn't go as well as he would have expected. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)

Ilya Kovalchuk’s days with the Los Angeles Kings appear to be numbered, but the 36-year-old isn’t altering his approach as he remains the subject of rampant speculation.

Kovalchuk was a healthy scratch for Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild and is widely expected to be held out Thursday versus the Detroit Red Wings.

It was reported Wednesday that the Kings and Kovalchuk are finalizing his release but the 36-year-old insists he’s not paying attention to the headlines.

"I don't know what was reported," Kovalchuk said, according to NHL.com’s Dan Greenspan. "I'm the regular player. Everybody's got a healthy scratch, and we're in last place, so Coach (Todd McLellan) has to do something to change things, and I'm just here every day for the guys, for the team. And if they need me, I'm ready to go."

Ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Wild, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that the Kings told Kovalchuk he would be out of the lineup for the foreseeable future, but he remained welcome to practice with the team. Kings general manager Rob Blake later stated that Kovalchuk was merely a scratch for Tuesday’s game with no further update on his status with the club.

Kovalchuk returned to the NHL ahead of the 2018-19 season, signing a three-year deal worth an average annual value of $6.25 million in June 2018. Although his return to the NHL was highly anticipated, Kovalchuk has rarely looked like the player that emerged as one of the most dangerous goal scorers of the early-to-mid 2000s, notching three goals and nine points in 17 games this season.

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