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Thrashers all-star forward Ilya Kovalchuk returns after missing two games

ATLANTA - Thrashers all-star forward Ilya Kovalchuk returned to action Tuesday night after missing two games because of a knee injury.

Kovalchuk did not start against the Philadelphia Flyers but he came off the bench early in the first period. Kovalchuk earned the go-ahead to play after he participated in pre-game warmups.

Kovalchuk was injured on a knee-on-knee hit from Pittsburgh left winger Jarkko Ruutu Wednesday night, forcing him to miss games against Buffalo and Washington. Atlanta won both games.

The 24-year-old came into Tuesday night second in the NHL in goals scored with 38.

An MRI on Kovalchuk was negative, and he had no serious swelling.

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