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Thrashers’ Kovalchuk makes late decision to join team for game against Rangers

ATLANTA – One day after Ilya Kovalchuk was ruled out of the Atlanta Thrashers’ game against the New York Rangers, the star forward was back in the lineup after a lengthy absence.

Kovalchuk broke a bone in his foot on Oct. 24 after being struck by the puck and was expected to be sidelined 3-to-5 weeks. The Atlanta captain missed six games and Atlanta went 3-3 without him.

He skated with the team Thursday morning in New York and then was officially cleared to play that night after taking part in the pre-game warmup.

On Wednesday, hours after team spokesman Rob Koch said Kovalchuk did not accompany the Thrashers to New York, Koch then said a weather delay before the flight changed the plan and that Kovalchuk did make the trip.

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Kovalchuk was tied for second in the NHL with nine goals when he was injured in a game against the San Jose Sharks.

Rookie left winger Evander Kane, the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft, also was in the lineup despite taking a shot off the foot a few days earlier. He didn’t miss any games. Kane assisted on Colby Armstrong’s goal 19 seconds in against the Rangers.