Ray Shero continued to remodel the forward corps of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday by adding Alex Kovalev from the Ottawa Senators for a 2011 conditional draft pick. It will be Pittsburgh's seventh-round pick in the 2011 Entry Draft but it can become a sixth-round choice if the Penguins win a playoff series and Kovalev plays in at least 50 percent of the games.
"I'm definitely pretty excited because I've been there before and had some good years," Kovalev said. "It's too bad that I couldn't prove myself as a good player in Ottawa, but I still had a great time here being surrounded by a good organization and a great group of guys on the team. I just feel bad that, like I said, we couldn't do a better job. But at the same time, I'm excited to go to Pittsburgh and play in the playoffs again."
Injuries have decimated the Penguins up front, but earlier this week Shero added power forward James Neal in a deal that sent defenseman Alex Goligoski to Dallas and has now acquired the talented but mercurial Kovalev from the Ottawa Senators.
Kovalev has 14 goals and 27 points in 54 games this season. Six of those goals have come in the past 10 games, and Shero is banking on a move to a contender helping the production of one of the most skilled players in the League.
"Kovalev is a guy, with our team where it is right now with the injuries we've talked about we need to add some skill to our lineup," Shero said. "For the cost in terms of assets we thought it was worth the risk. We're hoping he'll get back to playing some of his better hockey here.
"We're hoping in the short-term here he'll be energized to play here and play for [coach] Dan [Bylsma] and certainly for this city. When I talked to him this afternoon, he was very, very excited about coming back to Pittsburgh."
The right wing, who turns 38 years old today, spent parts of five seasons with the Penguins, and had his most productive season (44 goals, 95 points in 2000-01) with the organization. He had to waive a no-trade clause for the deal to happen, according to reports.
"That's where I had the opportunity really to explore my talent and show what I'm capable of and really become the player that I want to be," Kovalev said. "So that's one the things I'm excited about -- going to Pittsburgh I have the opportunity to be the same player and help the team succeed."
Ottawa moved Kovalev at about the same time it picked up forward Marek Svatos, who was waived Wednesday by Nashville.
Other guys currently out include third-leading scorer Chris Kunitz (lower body), and centers Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffrey (both with knee injuries) -- though Kunitz could be close to returning.
Just as the Penguins might be getting closer to having some of the injured forwards back, the defense corps has taken a big hit. Already missing Paul Martin because of an upper-body injury, Brooks Orpik reportedly will miss significant time after injuring his hand during a 3-2 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday.
Orpik used his hand to block a shot by Sharks forward Patrick Marleau at Consol Energy Center. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said he expects Orpik to be back before the end of the regular season, according to reports coming out of Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Orpik is a stay-at-home defenseman with 1 goal and 11 assists in 56 games. He hasn't played less than 70 games in a season since 2006-07.
This is a big year for us in a lot of ways. You can see Garth and management really trying to find that solution to get us into the playoffs and consistently have that. The pressure is great. You have to enjoy it. It just means there's a great opportunity ahead of you.