Ilya Kovalchuk seemed happy today he got a haircut Thursday.

“You’ve got to look good, you know,” Kovalchuk said. “We’re going to be on national TV (Sunday vs. Rangers).”

It sounded today as if Kovalchuk is preparing to go back on camera and play after missing the last 11 games with a right shoulder injury. Although he practiced today on the fifth line with Andrei Loktionov, Krys Barch and Tom Kostopoulos and remained on the ice for extra work afterward, he sounded optimistic that he could be back playing soon.

“I felt the best so far that I felt,” Kovalchuk said. “I feel pretty confident. I took a couple of one-timers and a little bit of contact, so it’s good.”

It was a dramatic improvement from just two days ago when Kovalchuk sounded frustrated that his shoulder was not improving quicker and the team scrapped the plan for him to go to Philadelphia for Thursday’s game. Kovalchuk said it will be up to head coach Pete DeBoer if he will play in Saturday afternoon’s game against Florida, though.

“I feel much better than even a couple of days ago,” Kovalchuk said. “With that kind of injury, it’s not just ups and downs. It’s always the same and then you make progress. It’s almost four weeks now, so I feel much better definitely, but if I’m going to play or not, you should ask Pete.”

DeBoer wasn’t ready to say if Kovalchuk will play Saturday or in Sunday’s game against the Rangers.

“He looked better than he did last practice,” DeBoer said. “I have not had a conversation with him. I’m waiting for him to kind of cool down and we’ll talk and come up with a plan.”

Kovalchuk wound up for a full one-timer at one point during today’s practice and, though he missed the net, did not appear to be in pain after he shot. Getting that part of his game back is one thing he’s been waiting on.

“But that’s not the only thing,” DeBoer said. “Even without a one-timer, he’s still an effective player. For me, it’s whether or not he can give and receive contact without putting himself in a bad spot.”

Kovalchuk was involved in some on-ice battles at the end of today’s practice, presumably to test how his shoulder reacted.