OTTAWA - Ottawa Senators forward Alex Kovalev feels that he has been made the fall guy for the team's recent troubles but head coach Cory Clouston gave the Russian winger a vote of confidence Friday.
Kovalev was on the ice in the final seconds of Ottawa's 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils and finished plus-1 with two shots on goal in over 18 minutes of ice time.
He spent the majority of the game playing with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek after being demoted to the fourth line in Ottawa's 5-3 loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday.
Prior to Friday's game with New Jersey, Kovalev was asked by reporters whether Clouston is making him the scapegoat.
"It looks like it right now," Kovalev said. "I'm not the only one not playing well. So there's nothing I can do about it. He decided to pick me. So like I said, it's been happening all of my career so I'll accept that."
Kovalev has recorded just 14 points in 31 games this season and has been the target of regular criticism by fans for not doing enough to earn his US$5-million contract this year.
"I wish people would stop picking my brain and just let me play the way I can," Kovalev said without elaborating.
The veteran winger isn't the only Ottawa player having a tough time finding the back of the net. The Senators (13-16-2) have scored only 27 goals over their last 16 games.
Kovalev has recorded 1,004 points (419-585) over 1,259 career NHL regular-season games with Ottawa, Montreal, the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh.
He has 98 points (44-54) in 116 career playoff games.