PITTSBURGH — Forward Alex Kovalev is returning to the Penguins on a day the team couldn't escape losing yet another regular to an ever-growing injured list.
The Penguins acquired Kovalev in exchange for a conditional draft pick with the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. The trade is Pittsburgh's second in four days as the team attempts to shore up a banged-up roster that will now be minus 12 regulars.
The trade for Kovalev was announced shortly after coach Dan Bylsma revealed that defenseman Brooks Orpik will miss between four and six weeks with a broken finger on his right hand. Orpik was hurt when he was struck by Patrick Marleau's shot late in the first period of a 3-2 overtime loss to San Jose a day earlier.
On the bright side, the Penguins did add a veteran forward in Kovalev who's capable of stepping in immediately to provide a sputtering offense some punch on a team that's already missing captain Sidney Crosby, who's out indefinitely with a concussion, and Evgeni Malkin, who sustained a season-ending knee injury earlier this month.
Kovalev is expected to join the Penguins in time for their game at Carolina on Friday.
The 38-year-old Kovalev is a 17-year NHL veteran, who played for the Penguins from 1998 through the 2002-03, a stretch during which he enjoyed some of his best seasons before being traded to Montreal.
Kovalev was a two-time All-Star selection during his time in Pittsburgh, and had a career-best 95 points (44 goals, 51 assists) in 2000-01. Overall, he has 426 goals and 591 assists for 1,017 points in 1,282 career games.
He had 14 goals and 13 assists in 54 games with the Senators this season. He became expendable in Ottawa on a team that's all but mathematically out of playoff contention, sitting last in the Eastern Conference.
In exchange, the Penguins gave up a seventh-round pick in this year's draft. It will turn into a sixth-round pick if Pittsburgh reaches the second round of the playoffs and Kovalev appears in at least 50 percent of the first-round games.
The trade for Kovalev was Pittsburgh's second this week. On Monday, the Penguins acquired third-year left wing James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen in a trade that sent offensive defenseman Alex Goligoski to the Dallas Stars.
Orpik's injury is the latest key loss for a team that can't afford too many more. Orpik is one of the team's top four blue-liners and plays on the top penalty-killing unit.
He has a goal and 11 assists in 56 games this season.
Defenseman Paul Martin has a chance to return Friday, as he was listed as day to day after missing two games with an upper body injury.
The rash of injuries have sent the Penguins in a tailspin, though they remain in playoff contention, sitting in fourth in the East.
They're 2-5-2 in their past nine games and are struggling particularly on offense, which has produced five goals during the team's 0-1-2 skid.
After averaging just under 3.3 goals through their first 41 games with Crosby, the Penguins' production is down to a little over 2.1 over the past 21 games. It's a stretch in which they've scored four or more goals in regulation twice and been shut out three times.
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