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Gonchar knows both sides of Penguins-Capitals

Friday, 05.01.2009 / 7:48 PM / Conference Semifinals: Washington vs. Pittsburgh

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

WASHINGTON -- Sergei Gonchar wants to see at least one tradition stay alive.

As a defenseman for Washington from 1994-2004, Gonchar played a part in each of the Capitals' last four playoff series losses to the Pittsburgh Penguins  -- in 1995, 1996, 2000 and 2001.

Pittsburgh has actually eliminated the Caps from the playoffs six times, including twice (1992, 1995) after coming back from 3-1 deficits. The only time Washington beat the Penguins in the playoffs was in the opening round in 1994.

"It was tough for (the Washington fans) and I'm sure they're looking for revenge," said Gonchar, who compiled 144 goals and 272 assists in 651 games as a Cap. "Now I'm looking for the tradition to keep on going. It's going to be interesting."

Gonchar, who came to Pittsburgh after the work stoppage in 2005, is the only current player on either side who has played in a Penguins-Capitals series.

He remembers that back then the Penguins had all the offense with stars like Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr while the Caps were built from the goal out, using both Jim Carey and Olaf Kolzig.

Obviously, things are different now with the kind of star power and firepower each side has at its disposal.
"At the same time, I left Washington about five years ago so it's been a long time.  If it were to have happened right away I'm sure it would be more unusual for me, but since I have been away from this city for five years it's going to be just another playoff series, but an exciting playoff series." -- Sergei Gonchar


"Now it's probably more exciting for the fans and more interesting for them to see than it was at that time," the Penguins defenseman said. "I'm sure there will be a lot of opportunities and a lot of offense with both teams playing a similar style of hockey."

Gonchar admitted "it is kind of weird" that he's coming back to Washington to play a series against the Capitals after spending a decade in the organization and making his first Stanley Cup Final appearance (1998) with the franchise.

"At the same time, I left Washington about five years ago so it's been a long time," he added. "If it were to have happened right away I'm sure it would be more unusual for me, but since I have been Pittsburgh Penguins Playoff Gearaway from this city for five years it's going to be just another playoff series, but an exciting playoff series."

He said he "grew up here as a player and a person," and all of his fond memories come rushing back every time he walks into the Verizon Center.

"I don't think there will be too many of those moments when the game starts," he clarified. "That's when I'll start concentrating on the games."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com
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