Kovalev shows fighting spirit

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

Unless all the cheers were for the guy dressed in white and blue — and at Scotiabank Place, that is entirely possible — then Alex Kovalev might have won himself a few more Ottawa fans Wednesday night.

Simply by getting punched out in a fight.

Kovalev dropped gloves and helmets with Maple Leafs defenceman Francois Beauchemin during the second period of the pre-season game at Scotiabank Place, and he wound up on the aching end of the lopsided tilt.

It didn’t look like he even landed a punch, while Beauchemin delivered at least 10.

Nonetheless, the fans roared for Kovalev as he skated to the box. We think. 

Entering his 18th NHL season, Kovalev has been in just three other fights. Against Toronto’s Darcy Tucker March 25, 2006, against Florida’s Alex Hicks Dec. 30, 1998 and against Dallas’ Dave Gagner Feb. 26, 1994.

It doesn’t matter that he lost his bout with Beauchemin. By fighting him, Kovalev showed something a lot of people say he lacks. He showed some passion. He showed he cares.

An inspired Kovalev could do some damage this season. Not in brawls, but on the scoreboard.

STARTS AND STOPS

Given his history, Pascal Leclaire had some hearts pumping a little faster when he went down behind the net after getting bumped by Mikhail Grabovski. After getting checked over by the Senators trainer Gerry Townend, he stayed in the game and minutes later looked more than all right with a big pad save off Phil Kessel ... Leclaire had no chance on either the first-period goals by Nikolai Kulemin and Nazem Kadri, as both were banked in off his stick-side post on shots from in close ... It’s just one game, but Patrick Wiercioch looked more comfortable than Jared Cowen, who, on Toronto’s first goal, had his clearing attempt kept in at the line and was then pyloned by Kulemin.

BETWEEN PERIODS

Last cut each of the previous two camps, Zack Smith should stick around this time. Along with his physical play and willingness to drop the mitts, Smith will kill penalties. Paired with Jesse Winchester, he gives the Senators a third (Chris Kelly-Jarkko Ruutu, Mike Fisher-Daniel Alfredsson) short-handed combination up front. “That’s how I earned my ice time in junior, too,” he said of PK work. “It’s something I actually enjoy doing. It doesn’t get that much recognition, but it’s something that needs to be done. If I can help out the team and get more ice time, I’m happy to do it.” He has the same philosophy about fighting. “I don’t think I’m expected to fight the heavyweights out there, but it’s something I don’t mind doing,” said Smith. Poolies with PIMs as a category would like to know how often. “It’s hard to say. I’ve always had more than 100 minutes in penalties my last four years, so that’s kind of a starting point, I guess,” figures Smith. He’ll want to stay away from taking minors of the lazy variety that he was nabbed for in the first period, hooking Dion Phaneuf in the offensive zone.

IT MAKEs YOU GO HMMM ...

More people came disguised as empty chairs than we remember ever before seeing for a Toronto-Ottawa game at Scotiabank Place, yet somehow the booing of Alfredsson was still prevalent ... While most players say quickness is the main difference between the NHL and AHL games, that’s not what jumps to Cody Bass’ mind first. “I feel it’s a more physical game down there,” he said. That would suggest the Maple Leafs were more of an AHL team Wednesday, especially in the first period, despite all the regulars they had in the lineup. The biggest hits were laid by Mike Komisarek (on Alfredsson), Beauchemin (on Kovalev) and Phaneuf (on Nick Foligno) ... You had to like the way Milan Michalek jumped on top of Komisarek after Komisarek’s hit on Alfredsson, even if he had zero interest in fighting him ... There’s hope yet for 2007 first-round pick Jim O’Brien, who was among the 16 players sent to Bingo Wednesday. “I’m not sure at this point last season we could tell him he was a prospect,” assistant GM Tim Murray said on the Team 1200. “He made a big commitment, and he still has a ways to go, obviously, but we told him he’s a prospect. We really liked his camp.”

AND FINALLY

Bass survived the big cut at Senators camp, but he won’t be shocked when — barring injuries to others — he joins the Binghamton farm boys prior to the start of the NHL season. Acquired with the fourth-round pick Ottawa obtained when trading Todd White a few years ago, Bass has not been a Senators regular since hurting his shoulder in a Dec. 27, 2008 scrap with Calgary’s Eric Nystrom. Yet, at just 23 years of age and having been re-signed by the organization in the summer, he still has hope of catching up with the dream he chases. That is, to have an Ottawa address once again. “I’m still here,” Bass said before the Toronto game. “Now it’s kind of a day-by-day process for me. I’ve just got to keep going, keep playing hard and control what I can do. That’s how I play.” Indeed it is. Bass looked like he would develop into the gritty, full-time fourth-line centre for the Senators when he was promoted in the 2007-08 season, but the shoulder injury and emergence of Winchester and Smith has pushed him down the depth chart. “I came into camp pretty nervous, but I feel like I’m doing my job,” said Bass. “I’m trying to play physical. I’m trying to give the team some energy when we need it. I think if I just do my job and worry about myself, and play my game, I think only good things can happen to me.”

don.brennan@sunmedia.ca


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