SUNRISE, Fla. -- The beginning of the NHL season is significant to every player, but for different reasons.
The 39-year-old, who played 22 games in the Kontinental Hockey League last season, earned a contract with the Panthers this week after being invited to camp on a tryout basis.
"I'm just happy overall to be back on the ice, back in the big league and have a chance to play in the NHL again," Kovalev said.
Kovalev was one of two veterans invited to the Panthers camp along with Marek Svatos, who was released Thursday.
For his part, Kovalev said he felt confident from the start he would earn a contract with the Panthers.
"Health-wise, I feel great and on the ice I feel comfortable," Kovalev said. "I didn't really have doubts that I was going to make it. There could be different circumstances, but I was pretty confident."