Pittsburgh Penguins-Ottawa Senators Preview: The Return of Sergei Gonchar

Alison MyersCorrespondent IOctober 18, 2010

OTTAWA, ON - OCTOBER 08:   Sergei Gonchar #55 of the Ottawa Senators looks up to the scoreboard during a game aginst the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place on October 8, 2010 in Ottawa, Ontario,  Canada. The Buffalo Sabres defeated the Ottawa Senators 2-1. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)
Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

Tonight, the Pittsburgh Penguins will take on the Ottawa Senators at the Consol Energy Center, and it should be a game both teams are looking forward to playing.

Last season, the Penguins and Senators squared off in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Although the Senators took an early 1-0 series lead and scored in triple-overtime of Game 5 to avoid elimination, the Penguins ultimately came out on top. They took out Ottawa in six games to advance to the next round.

Ottawa will come in to Pittsburgh looking to get revenge for last year’s playoff exit, but they have added a twist to the story.

In the offseason, the Senators signed Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar to a three-year contract.

Gonchar played five seasons in Pittsburgh from 2005-2010. He played in 322 games and posted 259 points. He was also a huge part of the Penguins power play, which often struggled during his time in black and gold.

Unfortunately, Gonchar has not been able to utilize his talents on the man advantage with Ottawa. The Senators power play currently sits last in the NHL; Ottawa has only converted on 5 percent of their chances.

Although many Penguins fans still love Gonchar, I didn’t mind seeing him go. He was getting older and he was entirely too injury-prone. Furthermore, he made unreasonable demands even though the Penguins indicated they could not meet him.

It will be interesting to see how Penguins fans receive him tonight.

Aside from Gonchar, the Penguins should also watch out for Jason Spezza. The center has scored a point in all four games he has played in so far.

Ottawa boasts another former Penguin in winger Alexei Kovalev. Kovalev played in Pittsburgh from 1998-2003 and tallied 347 points. He had the best year of his career in 2000-2001 when he posted 95 points in 79 games.

However, in five games so far, Kovalev does not have any points for the Senators.

For the Penguins, defenseman Alex Goligoski has stepped up at the early point in the season. He has six points and a plus-four rating.

Mark Letestu is currently tied for the rookie lead in goals scored with three. He has five points in the Penguins first six games and is second to Washington’s John Carlson.

Ottawa comes into this game with a record of 1-3-1 for fourth place in the Northeast Division. Meanwhile, the Penguins have a 3-3 record and are in first place in the Atlantic Division.

Ottawa has not yet won a game on the road, and the Penguins may now be starting to find their game. Even their average power play is picking up. They went 2-for-8 in Saturday's matchup with Philadelphia and scored a power play goal to win in overtime against the Islanders on Friday.

I predict that Ottawa's early season road struggles will continue, and the Penguins will win by a score of 5-2.

The game will start at 7 p.m. and air on FSN Pittsburgh and Rogers Sportsnet.