Saku Koivu isn’t sure where the rumours of locker room chemistry issues with Alexei Kovalev started in Montreal.
But hours before the two faced off for the first time since they both left the Canadiens this past summer, the former Montreal captain said he had no problems with his old, Russian teammate.
“That’s the thing that always kind of bothered me," Koivu told Sportsnet. "People were giving their opinion, even though they had no idea what was going on in the room. We never had any problems with Alex whatsoever. He was kind, he was a great teammate throughout those years. For whatever reasons, he sometimes gets criticized about not being a great teammate. I have no idea where that comes from."
Koivu and Kovalev both left Montreal as free agents this past summer, after a controversial centennial season in 2008-09 ended with a first-round playoff sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins.
BY IAN MENDES
Jason Spezza will play centre on a line with Alexei Kovalev and Nick Foligno. It marks the first time that Spezza and Kovalev — who are both underacheiving — will play on the same line this season.
Mike Fisher will slide over and take Spezza’s old spot on a unit with Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek.
Stories of locker room tension and media controversies feel like they are a world away for Koivu, who is in his first season in Anaheim after spending 13 years in Montreal.
The 35-year-old is enjoying the anonymity of the West Coast, where he can go shopping, take the kids for dinner and engage in activities in which he would have been mobbed in Montreal as one of the most recognizable faces of the franchise.
“Obviously, there (Montreal) everywhere you went, you were recognized," he explained. "You didn’t have the privacy in a way that you do here. If you want to spend some time with the family and not get recognized, you can do that here.”
The Finnish star is also embracing the warm climate, admitting that the winters in Montreal were not very appealing to him.
“We all know in the east, the weather gets pretty dark, windy and rainy and you get snow. Here, you get up every morning, you get the sun. It seems like it’s easier to get going,” said Koivu. “I think that’s the biggest difference there. It seems like there are no bad days here because of the weather. It’s more enjoyable.”
Koivu has collected three goals and 11 points in 23 games for a Ducks team that is currently sitting in last place in the Western Conference.
He says there is plenty of time for his team and himself to turn things around.
“Obviously as a team and as an individual, we would like to get different results. We haven’t played on a consistent basis well enough in a long period of time,” he said. “There are some good periods, some good games, but then we seem to lose the focus and give up the games at the end of the games."