Sens count on Gonchar

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:50 PM ET

The Senators need their defencemen to get more offensive this season.

And if the plan is to have any success, Sergei Gonchar will be leading the way.

Signed as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, the veteran blueliner is expected to be an impact player and kick-start the offence.

The Senators weren’t happy with their 21st-ranked power play or their offence from the back end last season. They are hoping the 36-year-old Gonchar can help get them on track.

Right now, Gonchar is taking a chemistry lesson. He is trying to get used to the way the Senators work the power play and move the puck. He has spent a lot of time talking to sophomore blueliner Erik Karlsson.

“What I’m hoping is I can help them as much as I can on both sides of the ice,” said Gonchar, in the first season of a three-year, $16.5-million deal. “Hopefully, we can get a power play going and then I know that I have to play as well defensively as I can.

“When you’re a little bit older and you’ve been around a system for a long time, it’s a matter of getting on the same page with the guys. We’re still at the beginning of the process and it’s not going to happen overnight. We just need a little bit more time.”

Gonchar is one of the best offensive defencemen in the NHL, with 202 goals and 684 assists for 842 points in 991 career games.

He’s also the league’s top-scoring blueliner over the past decade — even ahead of prolific Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom.

In nine of his last 10 seasons, Gonchar has had 50-plus points. The Penguins were 9-11 when Gonchar was sidelined with an injury last season and the power play success rate dropped 8%.

In 2008-09, he missed the first 56 games and the Penguins struggled. He returned, Pittsburgh posted an 18-4-4 record and went on to beat the Wings in the Stanley Cup final in a dramatic Game 7.

No wonder the Senators are excited.

“He’s going to help us be involved in the play more and playing in the other end of the ice,” said defenceman Chris Phillips. “I’m sure we’re going to create more. A good defence is a great offence. There’s a lot of dimensions where he’s going to help.

“It’s going to be great to have him. He’s a guy who can quarterback the power play and that’s huge. If you look at the names we have on the power play that he can feed and the experience that he has in some huge games is really going to be helpful for us.”

Coach Cory Clouston has always been a believer in having an aggressive defence that jumps into the play.

“He’s going to play 40% of the game and when he’s out there, he’ll give us a different look and different threat,” said Clouston. “It gives us more options offensively and that’s what we need.

“Guys like (Daniel) Alfredsson, (Milan) Michalek, (Jason) Spezza and (Alex) Kovalev often are out there when he’s going to be out there. It gets them a little bit excited that we can create some more offence without sacrificing our defence.”


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