Though his Canadienshave been relegated to the sidelinesfor this year's Stanley Cup playoffs, Alex Kovalev is back at the centre of attention in Montreal.
Themercurial winger questioned his future with the Canadiens during an interview last Friday with the Russian daily Sovietsky Sports, Radio-Canada reported Thursday.
Kovalev, who in the past has lashed out at members of the media for allegedly misrepresenting him, emphasized his latest grievance is with the team.
"At the end of the season, I had a discussion with GM Bob Gainey," Kovalev told journalist Pavel Lysenkov, the author of his official biography. "I told (Gainey) that I didn't want to be back on the team if I'm treated the same way as I was (this past) season."
Kovalev may have been referring tohisdemotion to the fourth lineduring a campaign in whichthe streaky Habscame up short in their late-season rally for a playoff spot.
One of the league's better teams over the first half, Montreal finished 10th in the Eastern Conference, two points behind the New York Islanders for the eighth and final post-season berth.
Despiteawakening from a mid-season slumber to winnine of their last 13 games, the Canadiens missed out on a chance to clinch a playoff spot by losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs in their final game of the season.
Kovalev, who hasn't lived up to his considerable talents in Montreal,was seen by many as a major reason forhis team'sdisappointing finish. A former 44-goal scorer with the Pittsburgh Penguins,he posted a tepid 18 goals and 47 points along with an unsightly minus-18 rating this season.
Kovalev also removed himself from the lineup for two games down the stretch, complaining of symptoms of vertigo. He also missed seven games in February with a sore elbow.
In March, the native of Togliatti, Russia, made waves by allegedly telling a Russian radio station that the Canadiens dressing room was divided by cliques formed by francophone players.
Kovalev, who also allegedly said head coach Guy Carbonneau does not like Russian players, denied making the comments.
Kovalev, 34,is under contract for the next two years at $4.5 million US per season.