Kovalev, Clouston clash Friday morning

The Ottawa Senators’ woes are no longer confined to on-ice issues.

Kovalev, Clouston clash Friday morning
PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 13: Jason Spezza #19 of the Ottawa Senators handles the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on April 13, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Senators defeated the Penguins 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Ottawa Senators’ woes are no longer confined to on-ice issues.

Winger Alex Kovalev, speaking for the first time since being demoted to the fourth line against the New York Rangers Thursday night, suggested he’s being blamed unfairly for the Senators’ woes.

Asked Friday morning if he’s being made a scapegoat, Kovalev said: “It looks like it right now.”

The enigmatic Russian, who represents a $5 million hit against the salary cap this season, added if he had one Christmas wish it would be for people to leave him alone and let him play.

Kovalev didn’t play much against the Rangers — less than 10 minutes — and didn’t register a shot on goal. He has never lived up to the expectations that came with his $10 million contract two summer ago.

Coach Cory Clouston disagreed with Kovalev’s blame assessment.

“He’s not being picked on and it’s not about underperformance, it’s just about having…we’re not expecting everyone to have a good game every night, we just want the effort,” Clouston said. “We want the consistency of effort, that’s all it comes down to.”

The Senators don’t have much time to work out their squabbles. The New Jersey Devils are in town for a game Friday night.

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