Kovalev: Everybody needs to play like a captain

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

A candidate to wear a Senators 'A' this season, Alex Kovalev may have been the 28th captain in Habs’ history had he re-signed in Montreal.

But such letters don’t mean much to the 17-year veteran.

“As long as I have a jersey on,” Kovalev said yesterday.

Kovalev will wear the Senators jersey in a game for the first time this evening when their pre-season schedule continues against the Florida Panthers at Scotiabank Place. As he left the rink following a practice for those players who didn’t go to Halifax last night, Kovalev was told about a report in a Montreal newspaper that stated defenceman Andrei Markov was offered the ‘C’ last worn by Saku Koivu, but declined the opportunity.

“They have plenty of guys who are really good players, its up to them,” said Kovalev, a Habs winger the last four seasons. “I mean I’m not even concerned about who’s going to wear the ‘C’ or whatever. I don’t think about Montreal right now.”

But he has obviously given thought to the letter-wearing tradition as a whole.

“For me, personally, I don’t see that big of an issue wearing the ‘C’, ” said Kovalev. “Because most important is that everybody has to really contribute and feel how important his role is. You’ve got to really play like you’re the captain. If everybody feels that way, you’re going to have a team.

“If you separate players between captains and assistants and average players, that’s not good for the team. I think sometimes you should think about having no ‘C’ on the team. That way everybody will feel comfortable.”

Kovalev says he is feeling “more and more” comfortable with the Senators, whom he called “a great team, a great group of guys.”

There is still some settling in to do in his new surroundings, however. That, and getting into game shape, is why this “three- or four-” handicap golfer hasn’t yet sampled any of the fine local courses.

“I have to focus on getting ready,” said Kovalev. “I haven’t skated much, I don’t really skate much in the summer time so I think what’s really important is the first week or so (of camp), get the exhibitions games started ... get in game shape, and get your head into it, then we’ll probably play a few times, check the courses around here.

“I’m not playing as much (golf) as I used to. I used to play 27 holes a day. Not as much now, when you’ve got the kids.”

A licensed pilot for more than a decade, Kovalev has also cut down on his flying.

“We used to play 12 or 13 games a month back in the old days, but since we’ve got more teams in the league we’re playing about 17 games a month,” he said. “It’s a little bit harder to fly. Just on the weekends or so, we’ll go to New York, the kids like to be in their own house, go back and see their friends and stuff, so I usually fly about 60-80 hours a year.”

It’s doubtful he ever goes back to Binghamton, where he played 13 games for the Baby (New York) Rangers in 1992-93, his first NHL season. Kovalev scored 13 goals and 11 assists during his time in Bingo.

“I was kind of disappointed being there,” he said. “It was kind of easy for me to play there. I was really looking forward to show people my spot was to be on the (NHL) team.

“I still remember the place where everybody lived there, up the hill, past the mall. It was the only place to hang out, at the mall. Guys after practice, that’s where they’d go. There was nothing else to do. Towards the summertime, (Binghamton coach) Colin Campbell, me and (Sergei) Zubov, we didn’t play as much in the playoffs, so we’d put our tennis racquets and fishing equipment in the car and just go, fishing on the lakes.”

Alfie gets his wish

At the end of yesterday’s practice, Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher wound down with a game of keep-away. Before long, Kovalev joined them. “I’ve been waiting for that all summer,” said Alfredsson, a long-time admirer of Kovalev’s puck skills. Was it worth the wait? “Sure was. Like I said, Kovalev is one of the most entertaining players in the league. It’s fun watching him practise, and it’s going to be fun watching him in games as well, and playing with him. I’m sure we’ll learn a lot from him.” ... Alfredsson arrived at camp about “4-5 lbs.” lighter than last year. He said it’s because he did more bike riding over the summer, but also conceded (with a laugh) that it might also have something to do with the fact one-year-old Fenix is walking and giving him a third son to chase. “I’m not 22 or 23,” he said when asked about the shape in which he came to camp, “but I feel physically really good ... Rookie Erik Karlsson credits Alfredsson’s advice with helping him adjust to life in the NHL and North America. Says Alfredsson: “My advice is more off-ice, I think. Make sure you eat all the time. Eat enough. He’s a guy that has a really good metabolism, so he needs to eat. Otherwise, if he plays a lot of games and plays the minutes too, he’ll lose weight. So he’s got to make sure he takes care of himself off the ice.” About his fellow Swede’s game, Alfredsson added: “I’m sure we’ll see him do things and (say) ooooh, how can he do that when he’s the last guy with the puck. But sometimes that’s what makes him stand out as well.”

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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