Alex Kovalev seeks to impress one more time to earn a new contract

alexkovalev1.jpgIf you asked ten fans what they thought of current Senators star Alex Kovalev, you’d likely get ten different takes on him. In his career as a Ranger, Penguin, Hab, and Senator he’s found ways to both dazzle and frustrate the hometown fans. As he begins his 18th season in the league coming off of ACL surgery, he knows he’ll have to impress to be able to earn another contract next year in the NHL and it’s not something he’s worried about one way or another as he told Dave Stubbs of The Montreal Gazette.

And Kovalev, who still (sort of) jokes that he hopes to play until he’s 50, understands his NHL future rests squarely on his performance this season.

“Nobody can predict the future, but it would be great to still play in the league next year,” he said. “If I have a job, I’ll be happy. These days, it’s hard to sign a contract and nobody wants to play for free.

“But I’m fine either way. If I don’t find anything here, I guess I’ll go play in Russia for a bit. My first choice is to play here as long as I can.”

There will be no contract talks with the Senators once the puck drops on the 2010-11 season.

“I don’t like those discussions once we’re playing,” Kovalev said. “I just want to do my job.”

Having grown up not ever being a fan of a team Kovalev played for and watching as an interested observer instead, Alex Kovalev has always been a fascinating player and reminded me of fellow Russian Sergei Fedorov. Both players are tremendous talents with the abilities to make you jump out of your seat, meanwhile making you want to pull your hair out on other occasions when they appear to float through a game disinterested.

What’s stunning about Kovalev, aside from his stick handling skills, is that he’s 10 points away from joining the 1,000 career points club. From the kid who broke into the NHL the year before the New York Rangers Stanley Cup season to the cagey veteran looking to bring the same success to Canada’s capital city, it’s remarkable to see him still going and able to bring it at a high level. The Senators are hoping he can still do it on a rebuilt knee for at least one more season.

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    The Buzzer: Raanta shutout, Brassard showcase, Blackhawks finally win

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    Players of the Night:

    Antti Raanta, Arizona Coyotes: Raanta shutout Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers, stopping all 40 shots sent his way for his first goose egg as a member of the Coyotes.

    Derick Brassard, Ottawa Senators: The Derick Brassard Showcase continued on Saturday night. The Senators forward, who has been the subject of trade speculation leading up to the trade deadline in two weeks, scored in his fourth straight game and added two helpers in a 6-3 win against the New York Rangers.

    Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights: Smith extended his point streak to seven games, scoring twice and adding a helper in a 6-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens. Smith has five goals and seven assists during his streak and now has 51 points in 58 games this season.

    Anders Nilsson, Vancouver Canucks: Nilsson turned aside 44 of the 45 shots he faced from one of the league’s hottest teams in the Boston Bruins. The Canucks obliged their goaltender, scoring six and chasing Tuukka Rask in a 6-1 win.

    Jonathan Toews and the rest of the Chicago Blackhawks: Losers of eight straight coming into Saturday, the Blackhawks finally ended the streak, putting up seven goals against the Metropolitan Division-leading Washington Capitals. Toews had a goal and two assists in the game. It was Chicago’s first win of the month and their seven goals were half of the number they scored in their previous eight games.

    Eddie Lack, New Jersey Devils: Lack wasn’t supposed to be playing against the league’s top team. But there he was on Saturday, stopping 48 of 51 shots against Stamkos, Kucherov and Co. He even out-dueled Andrei Vasilevskiy, who will likely win the Vezina in June. Impressive stuff.

    Highlights of the Night:

    Ryan Hartman, untouchable:

    Nikita Scherbak’d:

    Matt Murray did this two nights ago. Deja vu:

    Two-pad stack alert:

    Factoids of the Night:

    The season can’t end fast enough for the Oilers:

    The Golden Knights are creeping toward another record:

    Evgeni Malkin hits 900:

    MISC:

    Scores:

    Kings 4, Sabres 2

    Ducks 3, Wild 2 (SO)

    Senators 6, Rangers 3

    Coyotes 1, Oilers 0

    Golden Knights 3, Canadiens 3

    Devils 4, Lightning 3

    Penguins 5, Maple Leafs 3

    Red Wings 3, Predators 1

    Blackhawks 7, Capitals 1

    Canucks 6, Bruins 1

    Panthers 6, Flames 3


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Blackhawks fans tossed after racist taunts toward Capitals’ Devante Smith-Pelly

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    Four Chicago Blackhawks fans were kicked out of Saturday’s game against the Washington Capitals at United Center after racially-charged taunts were made toward Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly.

    Smith-Pelly, serving a five-minute major for fighting in the third period, got upset with a fan next to him who, according to the Washington Post, was chanting, “Basketball, basketball basketball,” toward Smith-Pelly, who is black. 

    “There’s absolutely no place in a game of hockey, or a country, for racism,” Trotz said after the game. “I think it’s disgusting. There’s no place for it. The athletes in this country don’t deserve that. It just shows ignorance.”

    Trotz said he hadn’t spoken with DSP about the incident, but said he was upset and his teammates had been talking with him.

    DSP did not speak with the media following the game, which the Capitals lost 7-1.

    February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

    The Blackhawks issued a statement following the game

    ““We were made aware of an incident at tonight’s game involving a small group of attendees who made harmful comments directed at Washington Capitals player Devante Smith-Pelly,” a Hawks spokesperson said. “The fans were immediately removed and we apologize to Smith-Pelly and the Washington Capitals organization. We are committed to providing an inclusive environment for everyone who attends our games and these actions will never be tolerated.”


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Should Miles Wood be suspended after boarding Vladislav Namestnikov? (video)

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    Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang

    He won’t have much of a defense, it would seem.

    New Jersey Devils forward Miles Wood took off his responsible thinking cap on Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    In the second period, Woods came barrelling in on the Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov. The latter had already ushered the puck up the ice, and with his back turned to Woods, the Devils sophomore appeared to leave his feet, driving his shoulder into the nameplate of Namestnikov’s jersey.

    If that wasn’t enough, Andrej Sustr came in to defend his teammate and paid the price at the hands of Wood, who broke his visor with a punch, leaving Sustr bloodied.

    Wood was given a boarding minor on the play and an additional two minutes for roughing after he left Sustr in a mess. It wouldn’t be at all shocking if Wood is summoned by the NHL’s player safety department.

    Both Namestnikov and Sustr had to leave the game, but both returned in the third period.

    The Devils won the game 4-3. Guess who scored the game-winner…


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Cam Talbot, furious with overturned goal, launches expletive-laden tirade

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    Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang

    Cam Talbot wasn’t too happy after losing to the bottom feeders of the NHL’s Western Conference on Saturday afternoon.

    The Oilers, who have Connor McDavid, couldn’t manage to score a goal against a team that’s given up the third most to opposing teams this season.

    And the goal they appeared to score to tie the game 1-1 in the third period was eventually overturned because of goaltender interference.

    Video review confirmed that Patrick Maroon impeded Antti Raanta’s ability to move his blocker side arm freely, a call that Talbot took exception to following the game.

    “It’s extremely frustrating, to have what seems like every single one of these calls go against us in the past two years is just unbelievable,” Talbot lamented to the media. “I’ve never seen anything like it. We challenge a goal, it stands. They challenge a goal on us for some reason it’s always waved off.

    “I just don’t understand it, it’s the exact same play that we had last week against L.A. where the guy clips my blocker. We challenge and it’s still a goal. Last year in the playoffs against  Corey Perry, same play, takes my blocker with him, puck goes blocker side and it’s still a goal on us. There’s just no consistency and I’m f***ing sick of it.”

    Answering another question, Talbot continued to drop f-bombs speaking to Robert Tychkowski of the Edmonton Journal.

    “The fact that every single goal is disallowed against us and every single call or every single time we challenge it’s still upheld. I don’t f***ing get it. They’re the same f***ing plays every time and for some reason, the call goes against us these past two years. We haven’t won one challenge in the past two years. It’s ridiculous. I just don’t get it.” 

    This looks one part frustration and another part sour grapes. There have been some blown calls this season, for sure, including against the Oilers.

    Here.

    Here.

    And here.

    But this one the Situation Room got right.

    Meanwhile, Talbot’s Oilers were shutout for the seventh time this season. They continue to wildly underachieve, despite having names like McDavid and Draisaitl. And they have to watch former teammates like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle light it up with their new teams.

    Sure, Talbot and Co. can blame it a host of external issues. But he and the Oilers have to start looking within. They didn’t become bottom feeders because a goal got overturned.


    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck