Kovalev 'feels bad' over play for Sens

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:34 PM ET

BUFFALO — Alex Kovalev couldn’t have wished for a better gift on his 38th birthday: A fresh start and a shot at a Stanley Cup.

The Senators winger was sent back to one of his old haunts when GM Bryan Murray dealt Kovalev to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a conditional six-or seventh-round pick in the draft.

Kovalev gladly waived his no-trade clause on Thursday to get a chance in the playoffs and bring an end to his frosty relationship with coach Cory Clouston

“It’s definitely pretty exciting because I’ve been there before,” said Kovalev, who played for the Penguins from 1998-2003. “It’s too bad that I didn’t show myself as a (better) player here in Ottawa, but I still had a good time in this organization and there’s a great group of guys on the team.

“I just feel bad that I didn’t do a better job. At the same time, I’m excited to go to Pittsburgh and get a chance to play in the playoffs again because it’s been a while. Like anybody else, I just have to go and enjoy my hockey life.”

Kovalev wouldn’t say it publicly, but he probably didn’t mind being moved one bit. He had been playing a limited role under Clouston and at one point was dropped to the fourth line.

Murray scoffed at the suggestion the club was disappointed with Kovalev — who was signed to a two-year, $10-million deal in 2008 to replace Dany Heatley’s goal-scoring prowess .

“I don’t know that (Kovalev) was happy here all the time,” said Murray.

“Maybe he felt his role on the team could have been a little different and that’s all we talked about. (Signing Kovalev) had nothing to do with Dany Heatley.

“It had everything to do with, as it will this summer, trying to upgrade our hockey team by making it more competitive, making it more skillful.”

Murray did insinuate Kovalev felt he wasn’t handled properly by Clouston.

“Alex is a veteran player that needs to be an important player and if you don’t give him that importance, as Dany Heatley showed, it’s probably easier to not to play to your level,” said Murray.

“I don’t know if it was him and Cory only, or the role that he was given here. As a coach, you have to define each and every player and where they fit. For Alex, it didn’t seem to work, so he moves.”

Murray said Kovalev apologized before leaving.

“He’ll go there and he’ll play in the top six,” said Murray. “He won’t be their star, they’ve got a couple of those, but he’ll be a good player for them and he’ll help their power play.”

Murray said there were three teams interested in Kovalev, but one wanted to wait until the Monday trade deadline before making a decision. lt’s believed the Washington Capitals dropped out.

Kovalev, meanwhile, jumped on a plane for Raleig to join the Penguins for their game against the Hurricanes on Friday night.

“The team has changed a lot since I was there,” said Kovalev. “It’s a hard-working team and they’ve recently won a Stanley Cup. I’m going to go in there and try to do whatever it takes to put the team in the right direction.

“To have that (playoff) excitement and every game is important, it’s not like the regular season when you lose a game and get ready for the next one. The playoffs is all pressure. That’s what I like.”

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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