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Caps Get Stronger: Gonchar's Back
[by Sean Broderick - 7 October, 1997] Following the first weekend of the NHL season, the Washington Capitals were the league's top team. By the end of the day on Monday, they were even better - and they didn't even play a game.
The Capitals, off to a league-best 3-0-0 start, agreed to teams with restricted free agent D Sergei Gonchar on Monday, GM George McPhee announced. Specifics of the deal were not revealed, but Gonchar should be back with the team by the time the NY Islanders visit US Airways Arena on 11 Oct.
"Sergei's skills certainly rank him among the league's top young defenseman," McPhee said in announcing the signing. "We welcome his addition to the team as he continues his development as a player."
Gonchar had been playing in Russia since August, but removed himself from the lineup on 1 Oct. to maintain his NHL eligibility. If he had played in a European elite league game after 1 Oct. - the start of the NHL season - he would not have been eligible to return to the NHL this season without clearing waivers.
Gonchar's return gives the Capitals - who already have one of the NHL's highest-scoring offenses (4.67 goals/game) and are near the top in goals-against average (1.33) - even more reason to be excited about this season. Despite missing 24 games due to injury, the 23-year-old Gonchar led all Capitals defenders last season in goals with 13 and was second to Phil Housley among defenseman in assists (17) and points (30). Under new, offensive-minded coach Ron Wilson, Gonchar could easily eclipse his career highs in goal (15) and points (41), both set in 1995-96.
While Gonchar's return is sure to bring a smile to every Capital face, nobody is more pleased than LW Andrei Nikolishin.
"I miss him, you bet," Nikolishin told the EuroReport this past weekend. "We need him here." Then, he added with a smile, "He's the only other Russian on the team."
Nikolishin and Gonchar, who have played together with the Russian elite
league's Moscow Dynamo, Team Russia, and now the Capitals, are best friends
off the ice. With Gonchar gone, Nikolishin has been even more lonely than
he might have been under normal circumstances because he has been rehabilitating
a knee injury suffered in the World Championships last May. Now, with his
best friend back, Nikolishin will have someone to talk with - in Russian
- about both his efforts to return as well as the success of the team.
Страничка Сергея Гончара на сайте
"Звёзды с Востока"
4 августа. Penguins acquire offensive Gonchar
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
25 июля. Только у нас. Защитник Сергей Гончар: Не
все так плохо, ребята - Советский Спорт
30 октября. Гончар без сознания попал в больницу
8 октября. Сергей Гончар: "Играть за сборную в Евротуре
не буду" // "Спорт-Эсперсс"
4 августа. For Bruins, price is right on Gonchar
- Boston Globe
4 августа. Penguins acquire offensive Gonchar - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
25 июля. Только у нас. Защитник Сергей Гончар: Не все так плохо, ребята - Советский Спорт
30 октября. Гончар без сознания попал в больницу // "Спорт-Экспресс"
8 октября. Сергей Гончар: "Играть за сборную в Евротуре не буду" // "Спорт-Эсперсс"
4 августа. For Bruins, price is right on Gonchar - Boston Globe