WASHINGTON -- Chris Kelly has been the recipient of a Dennis Seidenberg body blow, and he's quite happy to be wearing the same uniform as the stout defenseman.
Seidenberg has been a physical, positionally sound player for his entire career, but spending last season next to Boston captain Zdeno Chara on the Bruins' top defense pairing as they bruised and battered their way to a Stanley Cup earned the German defenseman plenty of recognition and praise.
He's back next to Chara again at the start of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and his titanic collisions with Washington's Alex Ovechkin in this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series have been epic.
"It doesn't feel great, actually," Kelly said with a chuckle. "I remember him hitting me when he was on Carolina in the corner. It was just a great hit and I ended up on the ice. He’s just a big, strong guy who plays physical, plays honest. I think he’s exactly what the NHL wants in a big, strong defenseman.
"They are too big strong men going at it and being physical. Like I have said before, there is no added slashing or yapping -- it is two big guys battling hard."
Boston coach Claude Julien has done all that he can to make sure Chara is on the ice against Ovechkin, but more often than not it is Seidenberg who ends up engaged in one-on-one battles with the Washington captain because he plays on the right side against the left wing.
Ovechkin leads the League with 17 hits this postseason, while Seidenberg isn't far behind with 12. Many of those have been on each other, and a few of them have been highlight-reel quality.
"It's a tough battle. He's a very thick guy," Seidenberg said. "But it's fun. It's playoff hockey. You play a little harder, and that's what it's all about."
While Chara stands out for his genetics, Seidenberg absorbs and delivers contact like he was crafted from 210 pounds of granite. That Ovechkin has been able to knock him off his feet a couple of times is a significant achievement -- even for one of the League's most ferocious hitters.
Seidenberg complements brute strength with the ability to skate and position himself well against oncoming attackers. Ovechkin has not found a lot of open ice in this series when Seidenberg is in his vicinity.
"Certain guys get certain assignments during the playoffs and for the last couple years him and [Chara] obviously get matched up against top guys," Boston defenseman Andrew Ference said. "I think he does an extremely good job of being consistent against his matchup. It is not once in a while where he is on top of them -- he is really tough to shake throughout the entire game, and for that matter the entire series. Obviously he has a lot of pride in having that assignment against top guys. Put that with talent and he's a good player as it is. He's just got what it takes. I think he really relishes that role."
Added coach Claude Julien: "He's a guy that has always been good in the playoffs, even before he came to us. He's a big-game player. He's been known as a big-game player, and he continues to show that. Zdeno is as good as you'll get as a defenseman, but when it comes to playoff time, 'Seids' isn't that far behind him, if at all. He's been a real good player for us, a real force, physical, he's loving these kind of challenges and he thrives on it. You need those kinds of players to succeed."