Kovalchuk discussed his return before the opening faceoff of a game that could knock the Devils out of the playoff race.
If the Devils lose in regulation, they will be eliminated from the postseason just a year after playing in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Kovalchuk injured his right shoulder during a game against the Panthers on Mar. 23 and missed the last 11 games. The Devils' playoffs hopes took a major hit while he was out. They went 1-6-4, with the only win coming on Thursday night against Philadelphia.
Scoring was a factor in the slump. The team had 19 goals in 11 games.