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Kovalev Dealt to Montreal for Jozef Balej and Draft Choice

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather announced today that the club has acquired forward Jozef Balej (BAH-lay) and a second round selection in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for right wing Alex Kovalev.

Balej, 22, has skated in 55 games this season for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League (AHL), registering 25 goals and 33 assists for 58 points, along with 32 penalty minutes. He led the Bulldogs in every offensive category, while also ranking first on the club with a plus-19 rating. Balej is currently tied for third overall in the AHL with 25 tallies and is tied for fifth in scoring with 58 points. He was also selected as a member of the PlanetUSA squad at the 2004 AHL All-Star Classic on February 9.

The 6-1, 191-pounder has appeared in 111 career AHL contests with Hamilton, registering 30 goals and 48 assists for 78 points, along with 61 penalty minutes.

Prior to turning professional, Balej spent three seasons (1999-2002) with the Portland Winter Hawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL). In 176 career matches with Portland (WHL), Balej tallied 105 goals and 85 assists for 190 points, along with 103 penalty minutes. In his final season in 2002, he collected 51 goals and 41 assists for 92 points in 65 matches and was named to the WHL West First All-Star Team.

The native of Myjava, Slovakia was originally Montreal's third round selection, 78th overall, in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.

Kovalev, 31, has appeared in 66 games for the Rangers this season, registering 13 goals and 29 assists for 42 points, along with 50 penalty minutes. In 492 career matches with New York, Kovalev tallied 142 goals and 188 assists for 330 points, along with 533 penalty minutes.

A very good skater with great hands ... Possesses a hard, accurate shot ... Shows good puck control ... Drives to the net and is willing to pay the price if he has a chance to create a play ... Is an offensive threat on every shift ... Needs to gain strength but shows a good work ethic and courage on the ice ... A very good upside to his game.
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