Canadiens look to end skid without Kovalev

Montreal (30-21-6) at Washington (36-16-5), 7:30 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (Ticker) — The Montreal Canadiens will attempt to
end their recent struggles without temporarily dismissed
All-Star Alexei Kovalev.

Kovalev did not accompany the Canadiens on their current
two-game road trip, which begins Wednesday against the
Washington Capitals.

On Monday, Montreal general manager Bob Gainey traded for
veteran defenseman in Mathieu Schneider and then sent Sergei
Kostitsyn to the American Hockey League the next day. No move,
however, made as much noise as Gainey’s decision regarding the
recently ineffective Kovalev.

Gainey, making a rare public appearance, told reporters that
Kovalev was asked to stay home for the team’s brief trek that
also includes a trip to Pittsburgh on Thursday. The 35-year-old
Kovalev has not scored a goal in 10 games.

The Canadiens have dropped five of six and 10 of 13 during their
current swoon, prompting Gainey’s brash command toward this
season’s NHL All-Star Game MVP.

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Kovalev scored twice in regulation before netting the decisive
goal in the shootout, leading the Eastern Conference to an
explosive 12-11 triumph over the Western Conference in the 57th
NHL All-Star Game at the Bell Centre last month.

The midseason gala is one of several events scheduled to honor
Montreal’s centennial campaign, which is in dire jeopardy of
ending in a sour manner. The Canadiens are locked in a four-way
tie with the Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres and New York
Rangers with 66 points in the tight Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, Washington is aiming for its third straight victory
after cruising to a 4-2 win over Florida on Sunday.

The Capitals also begin a stretch of playing five in a row and
nine of 10 at home, where they are 22-4-1 this season.