New-look Kovalev can't shake scoring slump

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:49 AM ET

No, Alex Kovalev did not have his hair cut to change his luck.

“To get faster,” the slumping Senator said Saturday morning, when asked to explain why he had inches of his golden locks removed.

It didn’t work.

Nor did it change his luck, for that matter.

The worst slump of Kovalev’s season — perhaps of his life, all things considered — was stretched to an even dozen games in Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers.

He has not had a goal or an assist since the Olympic break. Daniel Alfredsson, by comparison, has had three goals and 12 assists over the same period.

“I feel fine,” Kovalev said when asked about the “lower-body” injury that kept him out of Friday’s game against the Sabres. “It was just precaution. Didn’t feel comfortable before we went to Buffalo ... didn’t want to make it worse and miss the playoffs ... you want to make sure you’re healthy and 100%.”

Kovalev admits now that he’s concerned by the zeros beside his name each night.

“It would bother anybody,” he said. “Same time, the good thing is we’re winning games ... so that’s the one thing that makes me happy. We’re making the playoffs, what else can you do? You just have to keep playing and hopefully things turn around.”

People understand a slump. But what bothers many most about Kovalev is that he always looks like he has so much more to give.

Maybe once that haircut starts kicking in and making him move faster ...

Starts and stops

Suddenly, Erik Karlsson is getting acquainted with goalies around the league. He was up close on Ryan Miller, sliding the puck toward an empty net, when the Sabres goalie made a miraculous stick save Friday. Twenty-four hours later, it was Karlsson’s banging away in front of Tomas Vokoun that led to Matt Cullen’s equalizer. It was the first of his three points on the first of what will be many three-point nights for Karlsson. What’s the most points Karlsson has ever had in one game, Cheapseats asked. “Ten years old, 25 goals,” he said after the game. “Beat that.” He was kidding. I think ... You knew it was only a matter of time before Andy “Mount” Sutton hurt somebody with one of those big bodychecks of his. You just didn’t expect it would be Anton Volchenkov. Just a hunch, but the Crushin’ Russian won’t miss Tuesday’s game in Washington ... What do you get from a bad team with nothing left to play for? How about two second-period 4-on-2s it turns, without getting a shot off, into 2-on-1s the other way?

King Kelly

Playing in his 400th NHL game, Chris Kelly was presented with a close shave by Cory Stillman on a slapshot (attempt) follow-through in the first. Kelly, who tied a career high with his 15th goal Friday, can now chuckle off his slow start to the season as “part of the plan.” At the time, though, he didn’t find anything amusing about the fact he had zero through 17 games. “I remember scoring the first goal against Pittsburgh (in Game 18) and the big sigh of relief,” Kelly said Saturday morning. “I know what my role is here. If I can generate some goals, great, but I’ve got to be good at both ends of the ice.” Kelly’s four goals since the break are second-most on the team, after Jason Spezza’s five.

Score one for Alfie

Daniel Alfredsson has scored more goals against the Sabres (38) than any other team, including 19 goals the last 20 times he’s faced them. But never before Friday had he scored one without actually scoring. In fact, never before Friday had he been awarded a goal because he had been yanked to the ice with the opponent’s goalie on the bench for an extra attacker. “I’ve had it against me. I’ve hauled someone down,” Alfredsson said the morning after he was credited with the fourth goal in a 4-2 victory. “It was meaningless, but you never say no to a goal.”

Things I think I think

Surely, Brian Elliott knew the shot from Radek Dvorak that beat him 30 seconds into the game wouldn’t count because the play had been whistled offside. It just didn’t look like it ... Matt Carkner’s fight with Nick Tarnasky in the second, as short as it was, gives him 22 on the season. That means he needs two more to tie the 24 Chris Neil had in 2003-04 and Mike Peluso had in 1992-93, but also that he’s going to have to hustle if he wants a shot at the franchise record for most scraps in a season. That’s the 30 Dennis Vial in 1995-96.

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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