Kovalchuk to miss four weeks with broken bone in foot

The big question was: How good are the Thrashers?

The bigger question is: How good are the Thrashers without Ilya Kovalchuk?

The high-scoring forward suffered a broken bone in his right foot Saturday night and is expected to miss four weeks, the team announced after its star player underwent a CT scan Monday. The team captain who was tied for the NHL lead with nine goals, Kovalchuk was hit in the foot by a shot during the first period of the 4-3 loss to San Jose.

“It’s never good when you lose your best player, top scorer, captain,” defenseman Zach Bogosian said. “There is not much we can do about it. We just have to come together as a team and step up. That’s the bottom line. Everyone has to help out. It will be a big loss for us.”

The Thrashers started the season 4-1-1, which included a five-game road trip. After losing three straight with the last two at home, the team now must play for a month without the franchise’s all-time leader in points, goals, assists, game-winning goals, power-play goals, power-play points and shots.

Kovalchuk did not address the media Monday but was at the team’s practice facility wearing a protective boot. Thrashers general manager Don Waddell said the injury was to the top of Kovalchuk’s foot. He played just three minutes, 54 seconds on four shifts before leaving Saturday’s game.

Thrashers coach John Anderson declined comment on the extent of the injury or the ramifications following Monday’s practice without knowing the test result. However, Anderson made it clear the NHL is about more than one player.

“That’s why they call it a team,” Anderson said. “We’re not based just on one player. As much as Kovy is a great player and we need him, other guys have to play well too. Even if Kovy scores five goals one game, if the other team scores six, it doesn’t matter. We need to play like a team.”

After Kovalchuk left the game, Anderson eventually put rookie Evander Kane on the team’s top line Saturday with Nik Antropov and Max Afinogenov. Kane has three goals and two assists playing on the team’s third line and Anderson praised his play in Kovalchuk's spot.

“I’m not sure what their plans are for me,” Kane said. “If Kovy is out for a certain amount of time, I’m more than prepared to play there. I’ll play wherever coach needs me to play.”

During the 2005-06 season, Thrashers center Bobby Holik suffered a broken foot -- he was hit with a Kovalchuk shot -- and missed two months.

Kovalchuk, who becomes an unrestricted free agent following the season, missed three games last year with back spasms. His healing power has his teammates encouraged.

“Obviously it’s a big loss for us,” Slava Kozlov said. “I know one thing: Kovy is very strong and when he’s injured he comes back earlier than he’s supposed to. ... For the good teams, a player like him makes a big difference, but I think other guys have to step up.”

The entire Thrashers team will have to step up in Kovalchuk’s absence and one of the players that will be called upon is Rich Peverley. The forward has five goals and is tied with Kovalchuk for the team lead with 10 points this season.

"We’ve always talked about our depth,” Peverley said. “That’s going to be challenged. I think it’s an opportunity.”

The Thrashers have a rematch with Southeast Division leading Washington on Thursday at Philips Arena.