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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kovalchuk in Hockey Limbo

APThrashers left wing Ilya Kovalchuk, left, handing a pen to the team's manager, Don Waddell, in Duluth on Tuesday.
DULUTH, Georgia -- Russian winger Ilya Kovalchuk was on a line Tuesday with Peter Bondra and Marc Savard in his first practice since re-signing with the Atlanta Thrashers.

Three days after agreeing to terms with the North American National Hockey League club on a five-year, $32 million contract, Kovalchuk was back on the ice with his Atlanta teammates. The 22-year-old has not yet obtained a work visa from U.S. government officials, leaving his playing status in limbo.

"We're confident that it'll be reported back to us within the next 24 hours," general manager Don Waddell said Tuesday. "Once they OK it, they'll just send us an e-mail immediately, and then the paperwork will follow in a few days. Once we get that, he'll be good to go."

Kovalchuk, who had started the season with Mytishchi Khimik in his native Russia, tied Calgary's Jarome Iginla and Columbus' Rick Nash with an NHL-leading 41 goals in 2003-04. Though he missed the first three games this season, Kovalchuk shouldn't need long to regain his scoring touch.

Bondra has scored 70 or more points in six of 14 NHL seasons. He and Savard racked up five points in the first three games of the season, helping the Thrashers to a 2-1 start.

Kovalchuk is excited to get in on the scoring fun.

"I'm just going to play my game, you know?" Kovalchuk said. "Because the rules have changed right now, I think there's been more room for offensive guys and a lot of shots, a lot of opportunities."

Kovalchuk has no immediate plans to make any big purchases now that his new deal is on the books. He and his girlfriend, who have a new baby girl, have an apartment in New York, but the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NHL draft doesn't expect to buy a mansion in the sprawling suburbs of Atlanta.

Until this week, Kovalchuk spent no time in the metropolitan area since the NHL lockout led to the cancellation of last season.

"I live in my car now," Kovalchuk said with a smile. "My girlfriend -- we have a babysitter, so everything will be OK."