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Penguins notes: Kovalev doesn't like how game has changed

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Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, 8:27 p.m.
 

Former Penguins star Alex Kovalev has been an occasional healthy scratch for the Florida Panthers but was in the lineup Friday.

Before the game, Kovalev sounded like a player who is getting tired of the NHL.

One of the most highly skilled players in hockey, Kovalev is not enjoying the fact that scoring is down in the past few NHL seasons.

“There's more just kind of straightforward hockey (today),” Kovalev said. “Not much skill compared to the old days.”

One of Kovalev's old coaches, Dan Bylsma, acknowledged before the game that while Kovalev isn't hockey's fastest player, his skill and patience with the puck are rare commodities.

Kovalev, though, said he doesn't believe his talents fit into this era of NHL hockey.

“It's really kind of obvious,” he said. “Sometimes you can predict what the players are going to do: He just skates forward, and (the fastest guys) are going to be in the league. In the old days, it was just skill. You didn't know where the puck was going to come from or where it was going to go, but these days, it's easy to predict what's going to happen.”

Kovalev produced a splash in his first game with the Panthers by scoring a goal and adding two assists, but he has scored only once since.

• Penguins left wing Beau Bennett played most of the game on a line with center Evgeni Malkin and right wing James Neal. When Bennett was recalled last week from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, it was widely assumed he would play on that line because of his skill level and the fact that no left wing had established himself on that line. Bennett played his first three NHL games on the third line with center Brandon Sutter and right wing Tyler Kennedy.

• Defenseman Simon Despres was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch against the Flyers and in Buffalo. The coaching staff prefers using defensemen Deryk Engelland and Robert Bortuzzo against the league's more physical forward units. Bortuzzo was a healthy scratch against the Panthers. Center Joe Vitale and left wing Zach Boychuk also were healthy scratches.

— Josh Yohe

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