|Senators forward Alex Kovalev is disappointed he won't be available to help his team in the playoffs after suffering a season-ending knee injury last week against the Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Alex Kovalev's wealth of playoff experience won't benefit his teammates much right now.
But the 37-year-old forward insists the knee injury that has ended his season won't prevent him from fulfilling the second year of the contract he signed with the Ottawa Senators last summer. Kovalev suffered a completely torn ACL in his left knee against the Tampa Bay Lightning last week and is facing a rehab that could last up to four months.
"I don't see that as career threatening," Kovalev told reporters earlier today, brushing away suggestions his hockey playing days could be over. "I've (hurt) the other knee and recovered perfectly. I never had a problem with it and I still don't have a problem with it."
As he stood on crutches in the Senators dressing room, Kovalev couldn't hide his disappointment at not being able to join his teammates for their opening-round playoff series against the Penguins, which begins Wednesday night at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh.
"That's the best time of the year," he said. "It's just kind of disappointing to have that (injury) at the end of the year against a team that's not even making the playoffs."
However, Kovalev holds no ill will against Todd Fedoruk, the Lightning forward whose hit in the second period of their April 8 game brought an early end to his season. He is expected to undergo surgery in about two weeks, once the swelling in his knee goes down.
"I’m not mad," he said. "It was a good hit and everything. On my part, I should have probably tried to avoid the hit but (Fedoruk) came so quick that I didn’t have time to react. If I knew he was coming, I would definitely have tried to avoid him but what can you do? It’s just a game of reaction."
"I’m trying to do whatever I can do, but I only can do so much for this team. I’m not going to go around and give too much advice. The guys know what to do and they’ve got some experience. And the new guys have some experience from the regular season. Some of them don’t have experience in the playoffs, but all you can tell them is to just play the same game. You can’t change anything." - Alex Kovalev
With 116 previous playoff games on his resume — including a Stanley Cup ring earned with the New York Rangers in 1994 — Kovalev has the most post-season experience of any player on the Senators roster. But he isn't sure how valuable that can be for his teammates right now.
"I’m trying to do whatever I can do, but I only can do so much for this team," he said. "I’m not going to go around and give too much advice. The guys know what to do and they’ve got some experience. And the new guys have some experience from the regular season.
"Some of them don’t have experience in the playoffs, but all you can tell them is to just play the same game. You can’t change anything."
Kovalev likes the Senators' chances against the defending Stanley Cup champions. The teams split their four-game season series, with each winning in the other's building once.
"We played pretty good against them this year, but the playoffs are a different game," he said. "In the playoffs, anything can happen. I’m sure the penalties are going to be called differently and the play is going to be different for both teams.
"It’s just a little bit of a different game in the playoffs, so anything can happen. But I like our chances."