Ilya Kovalchuk makes surprise return to KHL team

Ilya Kovalchuk made a surprise return to his KHL team SKA St. Petersburg on Monday. The team recently stripped the former NHL star of his captaincy for poor performance and had announced that he would sit out for the remainder of the playoffs.

'Worked really hard'

Ilya Kovalchuk was stripped of his captaincy by SKA St. Petersburg, which announced he wouldn't play again this season before allowing him back in the lineup. (Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press)

Ilya Kovalchuk made a surprise return to his KHL team on Monday. 

SKA St. Petersburg recently stripped the former NHL star of his captaincy for performance reasons and had announced that he would sit out the remainder of the playoffs.

SKA went 4-0 without Kovalchuk in the lineup, but the 32-year-old made his return in Game 1 of SKA St. Petersburg's second-round matchup against Dynamo Moscow.

 

Kovalchuk registered one shot in 15:35 of ice time in his return and SKA St. Petersburg took the series lead winning 3-2.

Last year, Kovalchuk helped SKA St. Petersburg to its first Garagan Cup and was named the playoff MVP. He registered 74 points in 76 games. 

This season, the Russian sniper had 49 points in 50 regular-season games.

SKA has reportedly offered Kovalchuk $1 million US in compensation to terminate his contract after April 1. No deal has been reached.

Kovalchuk last played in the NHL in 2013 with the New Jersey Devils. The first overall pick in the 2001 draft scored 413 goals before abruptly retiring from the NHL with 12 years and $77 million US remaining on his contract.

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