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Insider Only Analysis: Kovalev’s ability to distribute the puck would make him a good fit with Crosby

Monday’s Pens Notes

— 38 year old winger Alex Kovalev tells anyone who listens that he is still the same player he was 8 years ago during his first stint with the Penguins.
Kovalev has appeared in five games with the Penguins thus far and there’s three areas of his game where the skill and offensive ability is still there:
1. The skating is still there from Kovalev; 2. He still has that unique creative ability when carrying the puck through the neutral zone and 1-on-1 ability; 3. He remains an excellent passer and that’s been really evident so far.
The one area of Kovalev’s game that isn’t on par where it use to be is his shot. He’s lost some zip off of that once famous shot but that’s expected at age 38.
A question in Pens circles is how Kovalev and Sidney Crosby would mesh together. Due to Kovalev’s excellent playmaking ability, the two could have the opportunity to be dynamic together as Crosby has evolved into one of the games top goal scorers.
Since Crosby’s emerged as a premier goal scorer in 2009, he’s never played with anyone consistently who can distribute the puck to him at an elite level. In Kovalev, he would have that guy.

Whether those two get that opportunity this season, obviously, is very much up in the air due to Crosby’s struggles in shaking off post-concussion symptoms.
Regarding Crosby’s recovery, Minnesota Twins 1B Justin Morneau’s recovery from a concussion is a prime example of how long it can take a player to return from a serious concussion.
Morneau suffered a concussion on July 7, 2010 and is still not symptom free as spring training is underway. Morneau in fact is considered doubtful to be cleared to play when the Twins open up the regular season on April 2nd.
— Tomorrow night vs the Buffalo Sabres, Kovalev will appear in his first home game as a Penguin since February 6, 2003 (6-0 loss to Florida Panthers).
— The Penguins are 6-0 when Dustin Jeffrey scores a goal and the 22 year old rookie is really catching the eye of those around the league with his ability to put the puck in the net. There’s a reason the Penguins were getting more calls about Jeffrey than the likes of Eric Tangradi during the trade deadline.
It’s still early, but Jeffrey an restricted free agent at seasons end is playing his way into a one-way contract next season.
— A dumb rule that needs changed. Eric Tangradi and Nick Johnson will be ineligible to play in the Calder Cup playoffs. Johnson and Tangradi are sidelined due to concussions and therefore can’t be sent down to the American Hockey League at this time.
In order to be eligible for the AHL playoffs, a player can’t be on the NHL roster after the NHL trade deadline. There should be an exemption for Tangradi because he was recalled to Pittsburgh on an emergency basis before the Islanders game.
Tangradi not being able to play in the AHL playoffs will be a blow to his development, as he won’t be finding a way into the Penguins lineup this post-season.
Will head coach Dan Bylsma hold Chris Kunitz out for yet another game? Based on today’s practice, it’s looking like it.
Kunitz is not skating on one of the top-4 lines in today’s workout as the Penguins host the Buffalo Sabres tomorrow night. One reason we may see Bylsma continue to be cautious with Kunitz is that the team doesn’t play again until Saturday afternoon against Montreal.
Kunitz looks and appears antsy to return.
Arron Asham skated before practice but did not participate in today’s practice. The top-4 lines remained the same with Mark Letestu centering the top unit of James Neal and Kovalev.
Eric Godard has served his 10 game suspension and can return to the lineup. We probably won’t see him until Pittsburgh plays the Islanders again.

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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