Gonchar set for 1,000th game

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:41 PM ET

OTTAWA - Sergei Gonchar phoned a friend in Russia to see if the guy wanted to attend his 1,000th NHL game Tuesday at Scotiabank Place.

He said, already 1,000? Gonchar laughed. Believe me, it seems like those 1,000 games just flew by. It seems I just got to the NHL and started playing. Its an achievement Im probably going to be proud of.

Gonchar, who has played eight of those games in a Senators jersey, made his NHL debut Feb. 7, 1995 in Buffalo.

I was called up from the Portland Pirates, said Gonchar, a Capitals prospect at the time. I remember it was a tight game, 2-1 or 1-0 ... a very defensive style at that time. I just remember it was a great feeling. Obviously when I was growing up, I never dreamed about playing in the NHL. As a Russian guy, at that time, you were only dreaming about playing for the local pro team, maybe the national team if you were good enough. And then I got drafted. I came over here and everything happened so quickly. I was amazed, and very happy, obviously.

Now 36, Gonchar would like nothing more than to participate in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, which means hell probably be looking for one more contract after his present, three-year deal with the Senators expires. Maybe hell drink from the fountain of youth between now and then.

Thus far, Gonchar has not had the expected impact with the Senators. He has no goals, four assists and a minus-5 rating, plus hes been guilty of defensive zone turnovers veterans of his calibre are not supposed to make.

Some have suggested hes looking old, which is an observation thats also been generally made of the 2-5-1 Senators.

The players on the roster theyll go with Tuesday have an average age of 28.4 years. When Jason Spezza, Filip Kuba and Pascal Leclaire return from the injured list and replace Zack Smith, Brian Lee and Robin Lehner, theyll once again be one of the older teams in the NHL. What does that mean? Who knows. The oldest team is the Red Wings, and theyre also one of the best.

Am I old? said Chris Kelly, who turns 30 on Nov. 11 and disagrees that, as a team, the Senators have lost a step. Can you say Daniel Alfredsson looks like hes losing a step? He outskated Tyler Myers, whos probably one of the fastest guys, to a loose puck on Friday. Has Mike Fisher lost a step at 30 years old? I dont think so. But those are older guys on our team. Weve got Erik Karlsson, who, if theres a puck up for grabs, I like our odds. So I dont think losing a step or conditioning or being fast enough is an issue for this team. Maybe overthinking the game and being caught in the middle at times, it looks like weve lost a step. Because when teams are playing well they just happen to be in the right spot at the right time.

Kelly is of the belief the Senators will turn things around soon. He doesnt get the panic this city is in because he says he doesnt read the sports pages or tune in to the Team 1200.

I listen to the morning show on Hot 89.9, he said, grinning. Josie & The City. I know whats going on with the celebrity scene.

Were a confident group in here. I know were going to get out of this. Weve been through tough spots before. We have pretty much the same guys back, except for an all-star defenceman weve added. Well get through this. Were a veteran group here. Its not like were a bunch of first-year guys who are new to this.

That would be Gonchar, whos not concerned that he doesnt have all-star numbers right now.

Im more worried about our team, that were losing, he said. I think its what everybody in this room is really focused on. Its not about personal achievement and all that. If were winning, it doesnt matter if I didnt score for a while.

I would like to getmore, but I think its going to happen when we spend a little more time in the offensive zone. I think as a team, if were going to improve offensively, my numbers will go up. Im worried about the team, not about me. If were going to be there, Ill be there too.


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