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Pens happy with Kovalev's play
As of Thursday, Penguins winger Alexei Kovalev was on pace to reach
70 points for the first time in his eight-year NHL career.
Kovalev went into last night's game against the Colorado Avalanche with 40 hits - second among Penguins forwards - and a team-best faceoff percentage of 52.5 percent. He also has added a new dimension to the team's penalty kill: the threat of a short-handed goal.
He had 15 goals and 20 assists through 41 games.
"Kovalev is a throwback to some of the great players of the Soviet Union," said Penguins coach Herb Brooks, who knows a thing or two about those old Soviet players. "He's done a little bit of everything for us."
Kovalev was miserable by the end of his seven-year tenure with the New York Rangers. His playing time had been slashed to nearly nothing. He was traded to the Penguins on Nov. 25, 1998, in a deal that sent Petr Nedved to New York.
But statistics can't measure happiness. In Pittsburgh, Kovalev has regained the same love for the game that he had while growing up in Togliatti, Russia.
It helps that Brooks is giving him gobs of ice time. Kovalev played more than 28 minutes Wednesday at Phoenix against the Coyotes.
"You know when you're small, just waiting for those hockey games, like, `Oh, I hope we're playing today?' '' Kovalev said. "I've finally got that back. I'm just waiting for the games.
"Forty games went by, and it feels like we just started the season. I haven't had that feeling for a long time. I'm glad I got it back. Every game, I just want to play. I want to enjoy it, and I want to win."
It shows. Kovalev has delivered some monster hits this season. Some illegal ones, too. He drilled Coyotes defenseman Teppo Numminen flush in the face with a elbow late in the Penguins' 3-1 loss Wednesday.
Kovalev's newfound intensity has resulted in some newfound consistency. Going into last night's game, he hadn't gone more than two games in a row without a point. His point totals through the team's first four 10-game segments were seven, 10, 11, seven.
"It's time to be a better player," said Kovalev, who turns 27 on Feb. 24. "I know a lot of people have been talking about that a lot. You've got to show how good you are, because if you don't, people are going to start talking again."
He quickly added: "I'm not worried about what people are saying. I'm playing for myself and my teammates. As long as we win, I'm like anybody: I'm happy. When you lose, nobody's happy."
No doubt, Kovalev has plenty of room to improve. He was a minus player in seven of the team's past 11 games and is minus-3 overall. His tendency to overhandle the puck has irked some teammates.
But, all things considered, the Penguins feel like they have a pretty good player on their hands. And he's getting better.
"We still think he can contribute even more than he has," general manager
Craig Patrick said. "But we're really happy with the way he's playing."
Страничка Алексея Ковалёва на
сайте "Звёзды с Востока"
21 сентября. Форвард «Монреаля» Алексей Ковалев: 37
удалений за матч? Я не удивлен - "Советский Спорт".
29 августа. Форвард «Монреаля» Алексей Ковалев: Дайте
народу зрелище - Советский Спорт
12 июля. Алексей Ковалев: Гуденау понимает, что он
виноват - Советский Спорт
21 сентября. Форвард «Монреаля» Алексей Ковалев: 37 удалений за матч? Я не удивлен - "Советский Спорт".
29 августа. Форвард «Монреаля» Алексей Ковалев: Дайте народу зрелище - Советский Спорт
12 июля. Алексей Ковалев: Гуденау понимает, что он виноват - Советский Спорт