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Neil welcomes Gonchar's addition

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators forward Chris Neil calls his new teammate, Sergei Gonchar, "a hard guy to play against" and believes he'll help the Ottawa power play (Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images).

Chris Neil can already envision the many ways in which Sergei Gonchar will make the Ottawa Senators a better team.

The veteran forward is clearly enthused about the addition of Gonchar, who signed a three-year free-agent contract with the Senators on July 1. The 36-year-old Russian comes to Ottawa with a well-earned reputation as one of the National Hockey League's top power-play quarterbacks. Neil calls him "a hard guy to play against."

"He sees the ice so well," Neil said during a break from off-season training. "I think it’s a great addition for us. You look at our power play last year ... this guy, he’s going to come in and make a big difference there."

Neil also expects Gonchar to be an excellent fit in the Senators dressing room.

"From what you hear around the league, he’s just an all-around great guy," he said. "(Gonchar) is going to bring some leadership into this dressing room as well. He’s a guy that’s won a Stanley Cup (in 2009 with the Pittsburgh Penguins) and just having his presence here is going to be great."

With the midway point of the summer fast approaching, Neil is hard at it preparing for his ninth season in Senators colours. He's spent most of the off-season in Ottawa and works closely with Chris Schwarz, the team's strength and conditioning coach.

"From what you hear around the league, he’s just an all-around great guy. (Gonchar) is going to bring some leadership into this dressing room as well. He’s a guy that’s won a Stanley Cup (in 2009 with the Pittsburgh Penguins) and just having his presence here is going to be great." - Chris Neil
"He's been unbelievable and he puts a great program together for the guys that stay around, like Matt Carkner and Chris Kelly," said Neil, 31. "It's been nice to be able to work out with those guys. We push one another and we get a lot more out of our workouts than if we were doing it individually."

Look for Neil to be a little more visible on the community front in weeks ahead. He'll be at GreyHawk Golf Club on Tuesday to take part in the annual Direct Energy Jason Spezza Celebrity Classic. He also plans to help out good friend Mike Fisher with his hockey camp in Orleans.

"It's enjoyable to see the kids' faces light up when you're out there working with them," said Neil. "I know what it was like to be a kid — it wasn’t too long ago, it seems — and you look up to your role models. It’s nice that kids look up to me and I’m able to help them out."

For more from Sens forward Chris Neil, listen to our exclusive Friday Phone Call off-season feature.


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