Chris Phillips has had his share of defensive partners come and go over the years.
He started out with veteran Igor Kravchuk in 1997.
Spent some time with Patrick Traverse.
Had a stint with Lance Pitlick.
There were four seasons with Zdeno Chara before he left for the Boston Bruins in 2006.
The last four were with Anton Volchenkov, who has packed his bags for the New Jersey Devils.
So as the Senators took the ice Saturday for the first day of training camp at Scotiabank Place, it was no surprise that Phillips was skating alongside off-season acquisition Sergei Gonchar.
Whether they will stay that way with the injury to veteran Filip Kuba is a big question, but you can’t help but think Phillips and Gonchar would be a pretty good duo if they’re together on opening night.
“It reminds me of playing with Igor Kravchuk a few years ago,” said Phillips. “Every little pass you get is a little saucer pass and he’s got a lot of finesse to his game. You definitely have to be aware that you can get the puck at anytime. I’m looking forward to it.”
So, what’s the difference from Volchenkov?
“You’re going from a defensive guy to an offensive guy,” said Phillips.
“You’ve got to be aware and accept a pass of the puck at anytime. I’ve got do my best job to support him offensively and likewise for him, he’s got to get back to support me defensively.”
Signed to a three-year deal in the off-season, Gonchar isn’t totally familiar with the way Phillips plays, but is willing to adjust.
The pre-season can be used to help them develop chemistry.
This might surprise some, but Gonchar is used to playing with a defensive defenceman from his days with the Penguins. He spent parts of the last three seasons playing with Brooks Orpik, who has a similar style to Phillips.
“He’s a stay-at-home defenceman. He’s always in a good position and always playing against the top lines,” said Gonchar. “He’s going to do a good job.
“Hopefully, we can develop some chemistry.”
Expectations are high for Gonchar, who was signed to a three-year, $16.5-million deal hours after the start of free agency July 1.
The Senators hope the veteran can play valuable minutes and help the power play.
“When you sign in Canada (the pressure) is expected,” said Gonchar. “When you are playing for a Canadian team, there are challenges, that’s a good thing.”
Phillips said he’s excited to play with Gonchar.
“We’ll have to see how things work out,” said Phillips. “I can see what situations I can get into being paired with him and I’m excited about it.”
Phillips admitted the communication with Gonchar might be a little easier because his English is much better than Volchenkov’s.
“That’s a pretty safe bet,” said Phillips with a smile.