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GAME: Ottawa Senators (36-18-9-5) at Washington Capitals (21-37-8-2).

TIME: Monday, 7 p.m. EST.

For more than a decade, Peter Bondra was the face of the Washington Capitals. Then he became just another part of their fire sale.

Bondra returns to Washington for the first time since being traded away as the Ottawa Senators visit MCI Center.

"I grew up here. I grew up as a player. I grew up as a person," Bondra said in an emotional farewell on Feb. 18 in Washington's locker room, shortly after being dealt to Ottawa for prospect center Brooks Laich and a draft pick.

"I have to understand that I have to move on."

Bondra is the Capitals' all-time leading scorer and was a fan favorite in Washington, where he had spent his entire 14-year NHL career. He went from being stuck on a team that was out of the playoff chase, to one that is fighting for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

"We thought it was best for Peter. We worked harder to find the best place for him to play," Caps general manager George McPhee said at the time of the deal. "Peter didn't want to leave. This wasn't something management and ownership wanted to do. We thought it was good for Peter and good for us."

The 36-year-old winger ended up being part of the Caps' salary purge, which has also included the departures of Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Gonchar and Robert Lang. Bondra leaving, however, was much more emotional for both the player and the franchise.

"When George told me, I was so shocked and, like, my stomach had butterflies," Bondra said. "It was almost emotionally a breakdown. It was tough. ... I was here for 14 years, and all of a sudden it's gone."

Bondra's acquisition has paid dividends for Ottawa. He has four goals and five assists in nine games with the Senators, and scored the go-ahead goal with 7:01 to play in Saturday's 4-2 victory over Nashville.

Olaf Kolzig, one of the few Capitals veterans that has yet to be traded, made 24 saves to lift Washington to a 2-1 win over Philadelphia on Saturday.

"We have lost a lot of talent but replaced it with heart and desire," Kolzig said. "Sometimes that can take you farther."

While the Caps own the second-worst record in the East, the Senators are tied with Toronto for the Northeast Division lead, four points behind Tampa Bay for the conference's best record.

The Senators, opening a five-game road trip, have lost their last three games away from home.

STANDINGS: Senators - 86 points, 1st place (tied), Northeast Division. Capitals - 52 points, 5th place, 38 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Senators - Marian Hossa, 30 goals and 71 points; Daniel Alfredsson, 42 assists; Chris Neil, 153 PIM. Capitals - Anson Carter, 15 goals; Jeff Halpern, 19 assists and 31 points; Darcy Verot, 106 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 6): Senators - Power play: 22.3 percent (72 for 323), 2nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.6 percent (244 for 292), 18th. Capitals - Power play: 19.4 percent (55 for 284), 6th. Penalty killing: 81.8 percent (266 for 325), 24th.

GOALTENDERS: Senators - Patrick Lalime (22-19-7, 3 SO, 2.31 GAA); Martin Prusek (13-4-2, 3, 1.86). Capitals - Kolzig (18-30-7, 2, 2.79); Sebastien Charpentier (0-4-0, 0, 3.12).

SEASON SERIES: Senators, 2-0-1.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 17; Tie, 1-1, OT. At Washington, Kolzig made 47 saves, but had his shutout bid spoiled by Hossa's power-play goal with 4:23 left in regulation.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Senators - 14-11-4-1 on the road; Capitals - 11-17-5-1 at home.

Associated Press
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