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Penguins Vs. Senators: Sergei Gonchar Returns

Sports Network | October 18, 2010


(Sports Network) - Having finally earned a win in the most recent game at their new arena, the Pittsburgh Penguins will try to post a third straight victory overall when they welcome Sergei Gonchar and the struggling Ottawa Senators to CONSOL Energy Center.

The Penguins lost their first three games at the new building before beating the New York Islanders in overtime on Friday. Pittsburgh then won consecutive games for the first time this year by pounding the rival Flyers, 5-1, in Philadelphia on Saturday.

Sidney Crosby notched a pair of third-period power-play goals and totaled three points to lead his Penguins in the rout of the Flyers. Kris Letang added a pair of assists and Brent Johnson stopped 29-of-30 shots for the win, improving to 3-0-0 on the year.

"When we do get those chances, we have to make the most of them," Crosby said. "We got them and found a way to hit the net."

Chris Kunitz, Mark Letestu and Matt Cooke also lit the lamp for the Penguins, who have won three of their last four contests to improve to 3-3-0 on the year.

Johnson has clearly outplayed regular starter Marc-Andre Fleury in the early going and Pittsburgh's backup could get the call again tonight. Fleury is 0-3-0 with an awful .853 save percentage and 3.41 goals-against average. Johnson has a pristine 1.32 GAA and a .953 save percentage to go with his perfect record.

On the injury front, defenseman Brooks Orpik is questionable for tonight's game with a groin injury. Orpik has missed the last four games for the Penguins.

This evening marks the return to Pittsburgh for Gonchar, who was a mainstay on the Penguins blue line for five seasons before signing a three-year, $16 million contract with the Senators this summer. Gonchar recorded 259 points in 322 regular-season contests during his stellar run with the Pens. However, Gonchar has just one assist in his first five games with the Senators.

Ottawa enters tonight with just one win on the year and is coming off Saturday's loss to Montreal in the opener of a three-game road trip. Tomas Plekanec scored with just under four minutes remaining in the third period to lift the Canadiens to the 4-3 victory at the Bell Centre.

Milan Michalek scored twice for the Senators, who are 1-3-1 on the year. Erik Karlsson also scored, while Brian Elliott allowed all four goals on 37 shots in defeat. Ottawa led the contest by a 3-1 score in the second period, but allowed the Habs to tie it up heading into the third.

"We can't let teams come back," Michalek said. "We can't let these games slip away. We were leading, 3-1, so we have to stick to our game and keep playing the same way."

The Sens have yet to win on the road this year, going 0-2-1 as the visitor. Ottawa will face Buffalo on Friday before returning to Canada's capital city for a four-game homestand.

The Pens and Sens split four meetings in 2009-10, but Ottawa has taken five of seven and eight of the last 11 encounters between the clubs. The Senators have taken four of five and eight of 10 in Pittsburgh and will try to carry their Steel City success from the Igloo to the new barn.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.