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.

Larkin will start season with Red Wings

Dylan Larkin
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Dylan Larkin — despite being just 19 years old — will begin the season on the Detroit Red Wings, a team not normally accustomed to having teenagers in the lineup.

Coach Jeff Blashill confirmed the news this morning. Larkin could apparently start on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader.

Larkin, the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft, had three goals and one assist in five preseason games. A natural center, he’s shown the potential to one day step into the kind of “big-time” role that Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have played for so long in Detroit.

“You have to give our scouts credit,” former coach Mike Babcock told ESPN in May. “We got a great pick where we picked. How high end is he? How soon?”

Related: Coaching change ‘one of the reasons’ Larkin signed with Wings

Preseason stats: Five goalies with good numbers, five goalies with…not

Anders Nilsson
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Yeah, yeah, it’s a small sample size and it’s just the preseason, but here are some goaltending stats anyway.

Five goalies with good numbers

Anders Nilsson, Edmonton — zero goals on 53 shots. His solid play a likely factor in the decision to waive Ben Scrivens, who actually wasn’t that bad in the preseason (4 goals on 56 shots).

Martin Jones, San Jose — three goals on 100 shots. The Sharks are rolling the dice on a couple of cheap goalies. Jones and Alex Stalock have a combined cap hit of just $4.6 million.

Jacob Markstom, Vancouver — three goals on 79 shots. Can he finally get over the NHL hump? If so, he could make it a real competition with Ryan Miller.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus — five goals on 122 shots. The Blue Jackets have scored a ton of goals in the preseason, but there remain questions about their blue line. Bobrovsky has the ability to make a so-so defense look good.

Anton Khudobin, Anaheim — two goals on 67 shots. A good early sign for the Ducks, who have Frederik Andersen in the starting role and want to give young John Gibson more time to develop in the AHL.

Five goalies with bad numbers

Thomas Greiss, Islanders — 14 goals on 94 shots. Has to be a bit of concern in Brooklyn. The Isles got below-average backup play last season from Chad Johnson. They wanted to fix that with the Greiss signing.

Robin Lehner, Buffalo — 11 goals on 95 shots. Tim Murray paid a hefty price to get the 24-year-old out of Ottawa. With the aforementioned Johnson in the backup role, the goaltending story is worth watching.

Jeff Zatkoff, Pittsburgh — 11 goals on 74 shots. Granted, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matthew Murray weren’t particularly sharp either. The Penguins conceded 28 goals in eight games.

Kari Lehtonen, Dallas — 15 goals on 84 shots. For a Stars team that desperately needs better goaltending, that has to be worrying. Antti Niemi wasn’t a whole lot better either, allowing eight goals on 65 shots. Fair question to ask — how many of all those goals were attributable to poor defensive play?

Pekka Rinne, Nashville — 12 goals on 91 shots. Has earned the benefit of the doubt, but thought we’d point it out anyway.