Radek Bonk left a lasting impression on the Senators' dressing room following his 10 years he spent in Ottawa.
MONTREAL - Facing your former team always means a little more. Beating the Senators on Tuesday night went beyond the two points in the standings for Radek Bonk and his coach knew it.
Fully aware that no one in the Canadiens dressing room knows the Senators like Bonk, Guy Carbonneau sent his big centerman into battle more than any other forward. The move paid off with Bonk translating his 17:44 of ice-time into an assist and a team-high plus-two rating.
Bonk also continued to help anchor the Canadiens' lethal penalty kill that snuffed out all seven Ottawa man advantages, as the struggling Senators dipped back below the .500 mark to start the season.
After becoming an Eastern Conference powerhouse by building from within, the Senators have since undergone a serious face-lift. One by one former first-round picks from Alexei Yashin (1992) and Bonk (1994), to Marian Hossa (1997) and Martin Havlat (1999) have all found new NHL homes. Owner of the longest tenure of any current Senators player, team captain Daniel Alfredsson has had a front row seat as the recent parade of ex-Sens have left our nation's capital.
"After playing with guys for a few years, that connection doesn't just go away once they put on their new uniform," admitted Alfredsson, who has seen his share of teammates come and go over the course of his 11-year career, all spent with Ottawa. "Even years later, you can't help but pay attention to how former teammates are doing. I'll root for a guy like Radek 74 games a year, just not when he's facing us."
Drafted third overall by the Senators in 1994, Bonk played 10 seasons with Ottawa, racking up 399 points and 152 goals in 689 games. A two-time NHL All-Star, Bonk put up four straight 20-plus goal seasons with the Sens.
The 2004 Draft day deal that sent Bonk to the L.A. Kings before his trade to the Canadiens along with Cristobal Huet in exchange for Mathieu Garon left Senators forward Mike Fisher without a centerman.
"Bonkie and I played on the same line for a good three or four years," remembered Fisher, who had Bonk by his side when he broke into the NHL in 1999-00. "He's a smart and complete player who understands the game. He taught me lot.
"We spent some time together off the ice too on the road and stuff," added Fisher. "He's an awesome guy who was always one of the ones who cracked people up in the room. His dry sense of humor took a little getting used to, but that's just Radek."
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com