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Ilya Kovalchuk out next two games

NEWARK, N.J. -- Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk will miss his third straight game Friday with a lower-body injury, according to coach Pete DeBoer. He will also sit out Saturday's game, the second of a home-and-home set against the Capitals.

"It's lingering," DeBoer said of the injury. "But it's definitely getting better. He'll be back real soon."

Kovalchuk, who suffered the injury Nov. 3 in the team's 4-3 shootout win over Philadelphia, was scratched Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes but had sounded optimistic he could play by the weekend.

DeBoer said Kovalchuk has not experienced a setback, but the team is exercising caution with the star winger.

"He did skate this morning, but we're in November ... you want the short-term pain for long-term gain," DeBoer said "We don't want to turn this into something that lingers."

The Devils' next game after the weekend is Tuesday in Boston.

DeBoer said the absence of Kovalchuk's team-leading minutes has forced the Devils to fill the void "by committee" and utilize all four lines.

The Devils recalled left wing Vladimir Zharkov Friday morning. He will play on the team's fourth line with Brad Mills and Cam Janssen.

After failing to make the team out of camp, Zharkov has performed well in nine games for the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League. The 23-year-old Russian has one goal and five assists during that span.

"Merit has always played a big role in who's coming up or going down," DeBoer said. "He was the guy."

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPNNewYork.com.