Kovalev takes his share of the blame

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:01 PM ET

Alexei Kovalev knows the picture is not pretty with the Senators.

After signing a two-year, $10 million deal as a UFA in the off-season, the man called “L’Artiste” is well aware he’s among the players that owner Eugene Melnyk was pointing the finger at when he told reporters in Ottawa Sunday that the club’s top players have to step up.

Kovalev, 36, who hasn’t scored since Oct. 29th against the Tampa Bay Lightning (a 14-game slump), was in Montreal for a press conference Monday to help promote his charity DVD for off-ice training and was asked how he felt about Melnyk’s tongue-lashing.

“If those words are going to me, I’ll accept it. Not in a bad way, but the right way,” said Kovalev. “I know I have to step up to play better, there’s no question about it.”

As the rest of the Senators returned from Anaheim in the morning, Kovalev, who will face his former teammates Tuesday at Scotiabank Place, took a red-eye to Montreal so he could take part in the press conference, but maintained he’s not the only one to blame.

“People who know hockey to understand I wish this could be an individual sport where you can prepare yourself and know you’ll have a good game or a bad game like in tennis” said Kovalev. “In hockey, one person can make a difference, but I’m a new guy on the team.”

NO TIMETABLE FOR NEIL: Chris Neil is playing the waiting game.

Sidelined with a knee injury, he isn’t sure about his timetable. He won’t be back anytime soon. He hasn’t resumed skating after suffering the injury on 25th against New Jersey, but he will get checked out by Ottawa doctors in the next couple of days.

While Neil has been riding the bike and working out daily at Scotiabank Place, he isn’t ready to predict when he’ll have the strength to test his knee on the ice, but he’s certainly going to be out longer than the two weeks the club initially predicted.

“I’m closer, but I’m going to be a little bit, that’s for sure,” said Neil Monday. “I haven’t skated and I don’t even know when that might happen. I’m hoping that I can skate this week, but I’ll have to check. I’m certainly feeling better, so we’re going to have to see.

“I’ve been able to ride the bike every day and I’m just trying to build up the strength in the knee. I’m feeling better and that’s half the battle. That’s for sure.”

Neil said it wasn’t easy to miss the recent five-game road trip, especially with stops in Boston, San Jose, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Anaheim.

The Bruins, Kings and Ducks all like to play a rugged style. He was also highly critical of winger Dany Heatley during the off-season and would have loved the opportunity to say hello.

“It was tough to watch, especially that game in Los Angeles, where you had Dustin Brown running around the way he was,” said Neil. “You like to play those types of games. They’re easy to get into because they’re physical games and you want to be part of them.”

NOT DISCOURAGED: Senators G Brian Elliott said there’s not much he could do on the opening goal by the Ducks Sunday when the puck took a funny bounce off the glass and into the net.

Elliott had left the net to try to retrieve the puck, but couldn’t get back and the goal was credited to Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf. “It’s a bad bounce. What are you going to do?,” said Elliott.

“You’ve just got to tell yourself that you’re playing well and you can’t worry about it. We’ll get it back and we’ll keep going.”

SKATING AND WAITING: G Pascal Leclaire was given a four-week timetable when he suffered a broken cheekbone and that hasn’t changed.

While the Senators were on the road, Leclaire has been working out and skating at Scotiabank Place regularly, but he won’t be able to return until he’s able to get a mask on his head.

Leclaire, who has missed seven games with the injury he suffered when he took a puck in the cheek on Nov. 23rd, has to resume practising with the team before he’s able to return.

INJURIES HABS: LW Benoit Pouliot (hand) day-to-day; RW Brian Gionta (foot) indefinite; D Andrei Markov (ankle) indefinite. SENATORS: G Pascal Leclaire (cheekbone) three weeks; RW Shean Donovan (knee) out; RW Chris Neil (knee) out; D Alex Picard (upper body) out.


Videos

Photos