Sergei Gonchar and Evgeni Malkin are from the same country and share the same mailing address.
They also have something else in common – they are All-Stars.
The two Russians head to Atlanta this weekend to take part in the NHL All-Star Game. The Penguins duo will represent the Eastern Conference All-Stars at Philips Arena. It will mark the first time the Penguins will have two players in the game since 2001, when Mario Lemieux and Alexei Kovalev faced each other in the North America vs. World format in Denver.
Gonchar will make his fourth all-star appearance – his last came in 2003 –after he was selected to the team as a defensive reserve. He ranks among the NHL’s top-scoring defensemen and has produced the most goals among NHL blueliners since 2000.
“Yeah, it’s a big honor. I am excited about it,” he said. “It was kind of a bit of a surprise since I wasn’t on the all-star ballot and I made different plans. It caught me by surprise, but at the same time I am honored and looking forward to it.
“It’s fun because it’s a different atmosphere. You’re playing against the different people all the time and now you’re playing with them on the same team. That doesn’t happen very often and I am excited about it.”
Meanwhile, Malkin was named to the Eastern Conference squad as a replacement for injured teammate Sidney Crosby, who led all vote-getters in All-Star balloting for the second year in a row.
“I am honored to be selected to the All-Star Game and have the opportunity to play with some of the best players in the NHL,” Malkin said. “It is unfortunate that Sidney will not be able to participate, however, I look forward to playing in the game and representing the Penguins organization.”
It will be Malkin’s first NHL All-Star Game appearance. Last season’s rookie of the year has been on fire recently with 16 goals in his last 16 games leading up to this weekend.
“Sid and Geno both deserve to be there. They are both great players,” Gonchar said. “Obviously, I am going to miss Sid there, but at the same time I am excited for Geno because he is playing so well. He deserves it. When Sid went out, Geno played even better – he elevated his game. I believe he deserves to be there and I am happy he will be there.”
Gonchar believes Malkin will benefit from the experience of playing in the All-Star Game.
“To see everything and maybe get a feeling that he’s as good a player as all those guys,” he said. “That might give him some extra confidence and he might come back after the All-Star Game stronger.”
The two will have some company as Penguins rookie Kris Letang will take part in the revamped YoungStars event on Saturday, which will be part of the Dodge/NHL SuperSkills competition.
Teammate Tyler Kennedy was also selected for that event, but will not participate since he is out of the lineup with mononucleosis.