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февраля 2009 года.
Kovalev feels reborn after banishment by Canadiens; Two-game absence makes veteran's heart grow fonder for team and his position on it // Toronto Star.
The mystery that is Alex Kovalev took another twist Saturday- this time a dramatic three-point return from a two-game exile from the Montreal Canadiens.
The Kovalev who played so lifelessly that GM Bob Gainey had to convince him to stay home while the slumping team went on a two-game road trip was forgotten and forgiven as the Bell Centre crowd welcomed back the team's most gifted, if often underachieving, player with a rousing ovation.
Then he delivered a goal and two assists as the Canadiens downed the fading Ottawa Senators 5-3.
Afterwards, the 35-year-old said he felt like a new person, or one who had shed the skin of mediocrity that marked his play for much of this season. Now, he's ready to rise to the heights he reached last season when he was Montreal's leading scorer and easily its best player.
"I have no idea why this has been happening for the last few months, but I feel better now," he said. "The last few days are going to help me."
Kovalev's goal at 5 38 of the first period ended a 10-game scoring drought. The player who scored 35 goals last season now has 14 with 22 games left in the regular season.
That was Kovalev the star, the one Canadiens fans adore when they sense flair and passion in his game.
But since he joined Montreal in a trade from the New York Rangers late in the 2003-'04 season, it's as if there have been two Kovalevs.
One floats around, trying gimmicky-looking moves and losing the puck. The other uses his muscular frame to get clear of defenders and dazzles with his ability to feather a perfect pass or blast in a goal.
After Kovalev drifted through the 2006-'07 season, when he had only 18 goals, Gainey went for a long walk with him to work out what was wrong and how it could be fixed.
He returned the next season with new resolve and had a stellar year. But then he lapsed back to the other Kovalev this season.
Once again, it's a series of chats with Gainey, before and during his two-game banishment, that may have sorted it out.
"Alex is a very sincere person," Gainey said this week. "At a point, he was separated from the group.
"He doesn't talk a lot with the other players or the coaches. He tried to find his own answers and tried to do more. We wanted him to do less and accomplish more, instead of trying to beat three guys by himself. That's not in our game plan."
Kovalev says he doesn't have any problems with his teammates, that he is simply a loner. But he has a special bond with Gainey.
"I don't like to tell things to people or say how I feel," he said. "I'm not that open as a person.
"Bob is the only one I open up to and say how I feel."
Even before Kovalev's impressive return, Gainey predicted that "if he comes back as the Kovalev he was it will be like we made a trade for a new player."
Kovalev echoed those words after the Ottawa game.
"It's always nice when you come back and get that kind of support," he said. "I didn't know what to expect, but I'm a different person now. I made a joke - I told my teammates it feels like I just got traded here."