Penguins Notebook: RW Kovalev speechless about return to Ottawa
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Alex Kovalev's pending return to Ottawa has a lot of people in the hockey world talking.
Kovalev is not one of them.
The 38-year-old winger did not make himself available to the media after the morning skate Monday and likely will not talk to reporters before the game today.
The game tonight in Ottawa will be Kovalev's first trip to Scotiabank Place since the Senators traded him to the Penguins for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in February.
"He's going to want to prove something, that's for sure," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Kovalev signed a two-year, $5 million deal with Ottawa in 2009, a move that did not work out well for either party. Kovalev tallied 76 points in 131 games with the Senators after scoring 149 points in 160 games with the Canadiens in the previous two seasons.
His struggles made him an easy target for Senators fans, disgruntled about an underachieving team.
Bylsma said he planned to talk with Kovalev before the game to help prepare him for what might be a hostile reaction from the crowd.
But, Bylsma said, Kovalev might not need much help.
"He's got more experience at this than I do," Bylsma said.
Winger Chris Kunitz, who joined the Penguins from Anaheim via trade late in the 2008-09 season, said he could relate with what Kovalev is about to experience.
"For me it was a tough feeling when I did it," Kunitz said. "But I think Kovy's a veteran guy. He's a leader in this room."
Their office might be a sheet of ice, but the Penguins have their own NCAA tournament bracket challenge. As is the case with many office bracket contests, those who know the least about college basketball end up winning.
"It's the guys that try to read too much into it that don't do well," Matt Cooke said.
A team trainer coordinates the competition, and Mike Rupp said one of his European or Canadian teammates usually wins.
"Usually I try to take too many upsets," Rupp said.
Jordan Staal grew up watching "a lot of hockey and a little bit of football," in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and rarely followed U.S. college basketball. He has yet to win the bracket challenge.
"I just guess," he said. "I'm not very good at it."
Defenseman Kris Letang missed practice Monday morning to see a doctor as a precaution after a hit he absorbed Sunday.
Letang was shaken up in the Penguins' 5-1 victory against Edmonton when Gilbert Brule crushed him near the Penguins goal line late in the third period.
Fellow defenseman Matt Niskanen has the flu and will not travel with the team to Ottawa.
But the Penguins received good news on several injured players.
Forward Arron Asham skated in a full practice for the first time since a concussion Feb. 1. He said he hopes to return Sunday for the game against the Rangers.
Forward Eric Tangradi skated in full gear, along with forward Mike Comrie (hip) and defenseman Brooks Orpik (finger). Tangradi sustained a concussion in a penalty plagued game Feb. 11 against the Islanders.
Forward Nick Johnson traveled with the team to Ottawa and will skate today for the first time since a concussion in a Feb. 18 practice.
Michalek on a tear
After going scoreless in his first 58 games this season, defensemen Zbynek Michalek is on a tear, scoring two goals in the past three games.
"It's a big relief for me," he said. "I was getting tired of my friends asking me when I would score my first goal. It's a big monkey off my back."
Michalek said he has tried to take more shots and be more accurate.
"When I do that, I can be pretty successful," he said.
Former Penguins winger Nick Harbaruk died of cancer last Thursday in suburban Toronto.
Harbaruk, 67, was a defensive forward and penalty-killer who appeared in 308 games with the Penguins, accumulating 40 goals and 61 assists.
He also played in 56 games with the St. Louis Blues before joining Indianapolis of the World Hockey Association in 1974.
First Published March 15, 2011 12:00 am