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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.

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.

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