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 LArtiste is well aware hes among the players that owner Eugene Melnyk was pointing the finger at when he told reporters in Ottawa Sunday that the clubs top players have to step up.

Kovalev, 36, who hasnt 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 Melnyks tongue-lashing.

If those words are going to me, Ill accept it. Not in a bad way, but the right way, said Kovalev. I know I have to step up to play better, theres 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 hes 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 youll have a good game or a bad game like in tennis said Kovalev. In hockey, one person can make a difference, but Im a new guy on the team.

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

Sidelined with a knee injury, he isnt sure about his timetable. He wont be back anytime soon. He hasnt 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 isnt ready to predict when hell have the strength to test his knee on the ice, but hes certainly going to be out longer than the two weeks the club initially predicted.

Im closer, but Im going to be a little bit, thats for sure, said Neil Monday. I havent skated and I dont even know when that might happen. Im hoping that I can skate this week, but Ill have to check. Im certainly feeling better, so were going to have to see.

Ive been able to ride the bike every day and Im just trying to build up the strength in the knee. Im feeling better and thats half the battle. Thats for sure.

Neil said it wasnt 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. Theyre easy to get into because theyre physical games and you want to be part of them.

NOT DISCOURAGED: Senators G Brian Elliott said theres 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 couldnt get back and the goal was credited to Anaheims Ryan Getzlaf. Its a bad bounce. What are you going to do?, said Elliott.

Youve just got to tell yourself that youre playing well and you cant worry about it. Well get it back and well keep going.

SKATING AND WAITING: G Pascal Leclaire was given a four-week timetable when he suffered a broken cheekbone and that hasnt changed.

While the Senators were on the road, Leclaire has been working out and skating at Scotiabank Place regularly, but he wont be able to return until hes 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 hes 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.


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