Kovalev suspended 5 games


NHL senior vice president Brian Burke suspended New York Rangers right wing Alexei Kovalev five games yesterday for a tripping incident involving Washington's Dale Hunter.

Burke said Kovalev "intentionally kicked" Hunter's skate from beneath him in a "senseless and unnecessary" act that caused the Capitals' center to tear the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

Kovalev, who was suspended from the Rangers' game Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils, will also miss the next four games, beginning tomorrow in Toronto. He will be fined $500 and will not be paid during those five games.

Hunter was playing in his second game since returning from a 21-game suspension for a late hit to New York Islanders forward Pierre Turgeon during last spring's Stanley Cup playoffs. Turgeon's shoulder was separated in the incident and he missed six games.

Yesterday, when asked about the disciplinary action taken against Kovalev, Hunter avoided controversy.

"It's the league's job, and I have no control over it," Hunter said. "They're the bosses. They make the decisions. I have no control over it. I'm just going about my own business, taking care of myself."

Kovalev has been disciplined twice before this season. He received a formal warning for hitting from behind during a game with Washington Oct. 11, and was suspended from a Nov. 10 game for two major high-sticking penalties in previous games.

"I am concerned [Kovalev] is establishing a pattern of play which is unacceptable in the NHL," Burke said. "There is no reason why Dale Hunter shouldn't be healthy and playing today. These kinds of things have got to stop."

Capitals general manager David Poile said he had no problem with Burke's ruling.

"It's time to move on," Poile said. "It's over. Kovalev has been suspended. Brian Burke is doing a good job. He's giving players pretty consistent penalties.

"I just wish Dale Hunter was playing. We have a game [tonight], and I want to win."

The game is with the Montreal Canadiens, and Washington will have a new face on the ice. Rookie center Kevin Kaminski was called up yesterday from Portland of the American Hockey League.

Kaminski, 24, is needed because the Capitals learned that right wing Peter Bondra has a broken left hand and will be out two weeks, and defenseman Shawn Anderson has a chipped bone in his left hand and will be out at least five days.

Bondra has been out since being slashed last Friday by Pittsburgh's Pat Neaton. Anderson has been day to day since a slash in Miami 10 days ago.

Kaminski, who played five games for Quebec two years ago in the NHL, already has a fan on the Capitals.

"He's a very gritty guy," said goalie Rick Tabaracci, who played against Kaminski in the minors and briefly with him while testing his knee in Portland this fall. "You can ask anything of him, and he'll do it in a heartbeat. He's a lot like [Hunter] in terms of his peskiness, and he's not afraid to drop the gloves either."

Kaminski likely will play tonight on a line with Craig Berube and Steve Konowalchuk.


Opponent: Montreal Canadiens

Site: USAir Arena, Landover

Time: 8:05


Radio: WITH (1230 AM) and WMAL (630 AM)

Tickets: 3,500 available

Outlook: Montreal, third in the Northeast Division at 11-10-3, has been on a skid similar to that of the Capitals. In recent games, Washington is 1-6-1, and Montreal is 1-4-1, including Wednesday's 6-3 loss to Ottawa. Montreal G Patrick Roy has the second-best goals-against average in the league (2.39). Capitals Rick Tabaracci, whose GAA is 2.72, is expected to start. The Capitals called up C Kevin Kaminski (six goals, four assists in 12 games) from Portland and Montreal recalled RW Oleg Petrov and RW Craig Ferguson from Fredericton.

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