BUFFALO — Alex Kovalev will make his return to Scotiabank Place Tuesday night.
The Pittsburgh Penguins winger, like all of the six players GM Bryan Murray sent packing in a pre-deadline purge to start rebuilding, has struggled to make an impact since being dealt.
The 38-year-old Kovalev, traded on his birthday in exchange for a conditional draft pick, had just one goal going into Sunday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers at home.
He isn’t the only Senator traded who has done little:
n G Brian Elliott picked up right where he left off with Ottawa. He has a lousy .875 save percentage with the Avs and is playing himself right out of the league. A potential RFA this summer, he likely won’t get an offer.
n D Chris Campoli might be the one enjoying the most success since leaving. He is averaging 20:55 of ice-time per game, is plus-5 and is part of a ’Hawks team showing a late-season resurgence.
n C Mike Fisher has only four points since being traded to the Predators, who are suddenly in a dogfight for the final playoff spot in the West. He’s playing through an upper-body injury that bothered him all year.
n C Chris Kelly hasn’t scored any goals for Boston, but that’s not why he was brought to the Bruins. He’s playing third-line minutes, he’s not doing anything fancy and he’s playing in a shutdown role.
n RW Jarkko Ruutu is playing only a limited role with the Ducks. He’s averaging 12:50 per game, but Anaheim is in a playoff race and there’s no guarantee he’s going to get a chance to play in the post-season.
In 45 total games played, the five skaters the Senators traded have a combined three goals and 11 points. Those aren’t very good numbers and it proves that even a change of scenery wasn’t enough for some of these guys.
AROUND THE BOARDS
This game put fans of the Maple Leafs in a difficult position. They were forced to cheer for the Senators because Toronto is trying to catch the Sabres in the standings for the final playoff spot in the East. Still, rooting for Ottawa would be tough for any Leafs fan to swallow ... D Chris Phillips was left slamming his stick after the Sabres took a 2-1 lead in the first on a goal by Thomas Vanek. Phillips had a tough game, and his struggles started when he was caught flat-footed at the blue line and allowed Vanek to skate in alone ... Before the game, C Jason Spezza was talking about the Senators being one of the hottest teams since the trade deadline. “We’re playing more confident,” said Spezza. “We’re getting saves at good times and that’s made a big difference. At times, when our game has slipped a bit, our goalie has been there to save us.” That didn’t happen Sunday in Buffalo, when Craig Anderson was pulled after allowing four goals on 17 shots.
THINGS I THINK I THINK
The hit Andrej Sekera put on Chris Phillips in the first period that resulted in a charging penalty was dangerous. Phillips was OK, but he was definitely hit from behind ... RW Chris Neil made a brilliant move in the first going around Shaone Morrisson and forcing Jhonas Enroth to make a partial glove save ... C Jason Spezza spent a lot of time Saturday talking to some National Lacrosse League players from Boston at the HSBC Arena. “I played lacrosse until junior, so I played with a lot of those guys,” said Spezza ... A male Sabres fan shown on the scoreboard had the sign of the day: “I like Boyes.” Of course, he was referring to Brad Boyes, who was playing his first home game with Buffalo ... Hey, Cory Clouston does have interests outside of hockey. The Senators coach, a huge heavy metal fan, let it slip Sunday that he plays the drums in his spare time and he even had a chance to get a quick glimpse of a member of his favourite band performing late Friday in Tampa. Clouston went to the Plaza at the St. Pete Times Forum to catch former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley, who was outside the arena playing a free concert. “As soon as I finished talking (to the media Friday), I went outside and watched. I’ve even got the pictures to prove it,” said Clouston with a smile.
RUFF TIMES AHEAD FOR SABRES?
New Sabres owner Terry Pegula has to get coach Lindy Ruff re-signed or the former Jack Adams Award winner will be the most valuable UFA on the market on July 1. Ruff turned down a one-year extension from former owner Tom Golisano last spring. The NHL’s longest-serving coach, Ruff was hired by the Sabres on July 21, 1997. There have been 157 coaching changes in the NHL since then. Ruff has never worked for an owner willing to spend a lot of cash to win, but the talk is Pegula will do whatever it takes to try to bring a Cup to Buffalo. Rumour has it he wants GM Darcy Regier to try to acquire Patrick Kane in the off-season.
“Hopefully, I won’t have to do any swearing.”
— Erik Karlsson before the game on Swedish official Marcus Vinnerborg, who was one of the refs and would understand what Karlsson was saying if he cursed in his native tongue. Karlsson was later given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Vinnerborg.