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Alex Kovalev, A Leader And Big Brother

Robert L Note: This is transcribed from an excellent piece by Marc de Foy in today's Le Journal de Montreal.

Alex Kovalev is making up for the off year he had last season. For the second month running, Kovalev has taken the Molson Cup honours for Canadiens player of the month.

The line of himself, Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn has been on a tear, with no less than 41 points between the three of them in the teams last 14 games.

During that span, the trio are the top three scorers on the Habs: Plekanec ( 5-9) and Kovalev ( 4-10 ) with 14 points each, followed by Kostitsyn ( 6-7 ).

Before last night's clash with the Lightning, Kovalev was but a dozen points off last season's total of 47. His 16 goals only 2 shy of last year's deceiving output of 18. Talk about your comeback seasons!

In explaining his renaissance, Kovalev simply stated that he " worked much harder during the summer."

"Over the course of a career, it's normal to have a bad year once. Nothing was working for me last season."

A Better Attitude

In addition to on ice problems, Kovalev was receiving too much ink for the wrong reasons. Off the ice, it was alluded that he'd become a distraction in the dressing room.

"I don't believe he was causing problems", said Guy Carbonneau, "But he's working hard this season. He has so much talent."

"Alex looked in the mirror this summer. He has stood out as one of our better players this season. He's changed his attitude. He's positive, he 's speaking out more."

One gets the impression that the talks he held with Bob Gainey after the season have had much to do with the changes.

The Kostitsyns' Guru

Kovalev has taken the brothers Kostitsyn under his wing. Just as Igor Larionov did with his Russian comrades during his time in Detroit, Kovalev acts as the two Belarussians' captain.

Two weeks ago in Atlanta, the brothers were performing their pre-game stretches while Kovalev stood before them comparing Ilya Kovalchuk and Alex Ovechkin to Tiger Woods while giving an interview to a Montreal journalist.

The brothers never said a thing, but they were soaking up Kovalev's every thought, staring at him intently.

Times Change

Perhaps the only reproach one considers about the Kostitsyn's thus far has been their hesitance in being as cooperative with the media as Kovalev is. They cite their unfamiliarity with the language as their main concern, but everyone feels they understand it better and can speak it more than they let on.

One hopes that Kovalev will enlighten them in this regard as well.

"I was the youngest player on my team for four straight season", Kovalev states. "Back then, the average age on a team was about 30. Today, it's closer to 26. It's important that veterans show them how things are done, but leadership must come from all players. Even the younger players need to be leaders."

Chris Higgins and Mike Komisarek have stepped up. Plekanec is taking up more space as well. Kovalev's attitude and influence have made a difference.

"That's what is asked of veteran players", says Carbonneau. "The young players need guidance. It makes things easier for them."