TORONTO – Veteran Alex Kovalev is paying dividends in his return to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Kovalev, acquired from Ottawa on Thursday, scored in regulation time before adding the lone goal in the shootout in Pittsburgh’s 6-5 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
Then again, Kovalev’s offensive exploits aren’t anything new for Pittsburgh. Kovalev spent five-plus seasons with the Penguins (1998-’03) and is 16th in career team scoring.
“It brings back old memories,”the 38-year-old Kovalev said.“I know I can be the same player and I feel like I have another opportunity to be that type of player and play in the playoffs. It’s exciting.”
There’s no denying Kovalev’s offensive ability. However, there are those who some nights will question his work ethic and drive.
Then again, the Senators are hoping Kovalev does well in Pittsburgh. That’s because Ottawa will receive a sixth-round pick if the Penguins win a playoff game and Kovalev plays in half of their post-season contests and only a seventh-round selection if that doesn’t happen.
And that’s for a player who had 14 goals with Ottawa and was tied for second in team goal-scoring.
“It’s not my business, I don’t care,”Kovalev said when asked if being traded for so little motivates him.“My job is playing hockey.
“I don’t care what they got for me. It’s not like they’re paying me. It really doesn’t bother me.”
Pittsburgh can certainly use Kovalev’s services right now. Captain Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are both out, seven other Penguins are also on injured reserve, another is listed as day to day with yet another Pittsburgh player serving a suspension.
Any slack Kovalev can pick up offensively would be a big help to the Penguins, but more important to Kovalev is simply being wanted.
“You want to play, you want to be apart of the team,”he said.“That’s important for the player and my type, the coach trusts in you and gives you an opportunity to help the team and you have to respect that and try to give something back.”
Kovalev’s new teammates are happy to have him.
“He’s a guy who is happy to be with this team,” said Max Talbot. “He sees the chemistry and the guys are all happy to have him.”