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Kovalev out 3-4 weeks with knee injury

MONTREAL -- High-scoring Alexei Kovalev of the Montreal Canadiens is expected to miss three to four weeks after he has knee surgery Tuesday.

He will be operated on in Pittsburgh, where he once played for the
Penguins. Team doctor David Mulder said there is no ligament damage
and Kovalev's right knee is "absolutely" stable.

Kovalev is second on the team in scoring with 19 points (seven
goals, 12 assists) in 18 games. He's a major part of Montreal's
first line -- and its top power-play unit -- with captain Saku Koivu
and wing Richard Zednik.

The Canadiens, off to a 12-3-3 start and leading the Northeast Division,
will be without Kovalev for the first time Tuesday night against
Florida.

"It's difficult to replace a player on your first line. … We
have other players with the same style of depth and experience as
Alex and it's up to those younger players to take his place,"
general manager Bob Gainey said Monday.

Montreal does not have depth at forward, with rookies Alexander
Perezhogin, Chris Higgins and Tomas Plekanec.

Kovalev said he has been playing with pain since the start of
the season.

"It was just getting worse and worse and we tried to avoid this
kind of thing by doing different therapy and it looks like that
just didn't work," Kovalev said during a conference call from the
airport before leaving for Pittsburgh. "I decided I'd rather just
get on with the surgery and not worry about it afterwards."

Gainey said the team was aware of Kovalev's problem, but doctors
had hoped to remove the fluid with anti-inflammatory drugs. Kovalev
experienced fluid buildup in his right knee four years ago.

"It's been four years without a symptom," Mulder said. "And I
guess what we're all hoping