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Gonchar: 'It's going to be a fresh start for all of us'

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Sergei Gonchar grins as he's reminded about his personal hockey history.

Most specifically, that his track record tells the story of a player who has always been better in his second season in a new city than his first. Gonchar's past numbers with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins offer support for that theory, which the Ottawa Senators hope works the same way in their favour in the season to come.

But the 37-year-old blueliner, who knows that fact as well as anyone, says there's nothing magical about it all. Comfort, it seems, can be a beautiful thing and that alone should bode well for Gonchar as he looks to improve on his debut season with the Senators, in which he produced seven goals and 27 points in 67 games. In nine of his previous seasons, the native of Chelyabinsk, Russia, totalled at least 50 points.

"I'm probably going to be more comfortable," Gonchar told earlier today with an eye toward what he believes will be an improved season for him. "Coming to a new team, you don't know anybody and it takes you awhile to get adjusted and get to know everybody. This part is behind me (now), so I think it's going to be easier that way.

"It's going to be kind of a fresh start for all of us. We've done a few chages since last year and last season was a big disappointment for all of us. So I think, going forward, it's going to be a fresh start, not only for me but for all of us. With a new coach (Paul MacLean), I'm sure there are going to be adjustments and it's going to benefit all of us, not just me."

The comfort factor also extends beyond the ice, said Gonchar, who isn't the only one feeling a little more at home in the nation's capital. It's also a much more familiar place for his wife, Ksenia, and two daughters, Natalie, 9, and Victoria, 2.

"Another thing that most people don't (realize) is that you have to move your family," Gonchar said about the adjustment to a new hockey home. "Your kids are going to school, they have their friends and they have to leave, too. You're adjusting to a new locker room, new teammates and a new city. Besides that, your family is adjusting as well."

One adjustment Gonchar is eager to make this season is to the new style of play MacLean, a former Detroit Red Wings assistant coach, will bring to the mix. Though they haven't spoken specifically about his role yet, Gonchar believes the up-tempo style that MacLean favours should be well-suited for both him and his teammates.

"It's going to fit well with us," said Gonchar, who has a clean bill of health after a concussion ended his 2010-11 season prematurely. "It's not only me. If you look at us ... from top to bottom, every single guy is skilled and I think it's going to benefit all of us."

The Senators' blue-line corps could be a younger one in the season ahead, with Swedish standout David Rundblad and 6-5, 226-pound Jared Cowen, the ninth overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, expected to push hard for jobs in training camp. Such a potential influx of youth "is only going to help us," said Gonchar.

"We have a lot of young guys coming in, but they're also very skilled," he added. "Bryan (Murray, the Senators' general manager) has done a wonderful job of pulling so many skilled players together. The skill level on this team is very high ... now we have to get on the same page and deliver."

Gonchar welcomes the opportunity to lend a guiding hand to the newcomers.

"It's part of being a veteran," he said. "I've been around for awhile and you want to help a young kid. I remember how tough it was for me, not only getting to the NHL, but getting to a new country and a new lifestyle. It's not easy. So when you're a veteran, it's kind of natural to help out."

He's also itching to get started on a new year. Gonchar hasn't played since March 19, so the off-season can't end soon enough for the 16-year NHL veteran.

"It's been a very long summer," said Gonchar. "I'm not used to it — we had a lot of success in Pittsburgh and summers were short for us, so this was a long one. I feel excitement for a new season, excitement for a fresh start and I'm looking forward to it."

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