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On Friday night Alexei Kovalev will play his 1,000 NHL game. The game will feature the Montreal Canadiens against the Carolina Hurricanes. After taking a lot of heat from the Montreal media and fans last year Kovalev is off to a red-hot start to the season, quieting his critics. In a very unique situation, the Habs will have three players this season play their 1,000th NHL game. Roman Hamrlik, Bryan Smolinski, and Alexei Kovalev. What makes this an even more special situation is the fact that only seven other Canadiens’ have been on the club for their 1,000th game.

Kovalev was drafted fifteenth overall in the 1991 NHL entry draft by the New York Rangers. Interestingly enough Kovalev was the first Russian player to be taken in the first round of an NHL draft in the history of the league. In his rookie season of 1992-1993, Kovalev put up 20 goals and 18 assists on his way to a 38-point season. It was in the 1993-1994 playoffs that Kovalev came into the spotlight putting up 21 points in 23 playoff games. Kovalev’s 21 points helped the New York Rangers win their first Stanley Cup in 54 years and was the first Russian born NHLer to get his name engraved on the Stanley Cup. (along with teammates Alexander Karpovtsev, Sergei Nemchinov, and Sergei Zubov) In his NHL career the skilled Russian has played for the New York Rangers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, back for a second stint with the Rangers before finally being acquired by the Canadiens for Jozef Balej and a second round draft pick.

As Habs fans all know Alexei is a great playoff performer and his playoff numbers are impressive. In 100 playoff games Kovalev has amassed 27 goals and 47 assists for a total of 84 points. Alexei Kovalev has been one of the most skilled hockey players in the world over his career and when he is on his game and giving 100% there are few better then him in the league.

It is fitting then that on Friday night in Carolina Kovalev will suit up for his 1,000 NHL game against the same franchise that he played his very first NHL game against. That night Kovalev was part of a 6-2 New York Rangers win over the Hartford Whalers. Kovalev will play a big role in the Canadiens march to the playoffs. Whether he is scoring highlight reel goals or making sure Darcy Tucker has his head up, when all is said and done Alexei Kovalev is one of the most durable, skillful and successful Russian hockey players ever to play in the NHL. So on behalf on Habs’ fans around the world, Congratulations Alexei Kovalev on your 1,000th NHL game.

Written by John Richan