Capitals' Soviet import makes good impression


Dimitri Khristich, the rookie from the Soviet Union who was signed by the Washington Capitals last week, made his professional hockey debut over the weekend, playing three games for the Baltimore Skipjacks in the American Hockey League.

Khristich, 21, played mostly at left wing for the Skipjacks but also played a couple of shifts at center. In addition to skating a regular shift, he played on the Baltimore penalty-killing unit and acquitted himself well. He did not score, but he had several shots on goal, moved the puck well, checked his man on defense and showed excellent skating ability.

"He played well," said Skipjacks coach Rob Laird. "He looks as if he can become a strong player."

Khristich joined the Washington Capitals yesterday in New York, but he was not expected to play in last night's game in Madison Square Garden between the Capitals and Rangers.

"He played in three consecutive games, and playing in four in a row would be a little bit too much for him," said Capitals coach Terry Murray. "Khristich will be with us, but I don't think I'll use him until we get to Chicago and St. Louis [Wednesday and Thursday] on this road trip. I plan to gradually work Khristich into our lineup, give him some ice time and let him get used the National Hockey League."

"I think he is going to be a very good player for us," Murray said. "He is a big, strong kid and very intelligent. He stood and watched our drills during practice, and he knew exactly what to do after watching only once and not being told anything. I skated him on a line with Dino Ciccarelli and Mike Ridley in practice and he performed very well. He has a nice shot, skates well and has a great ice awareness."

There was some grumbling reported among Baltimore players about the signing of the Khristich because, it was said, the Capitals were overlooking players already in the organization. However, there was no animosity on the ice or in the locker room by the Skipjacks toward their new mate. Khristich, who does not speak English, appeared to be treated like any other newcomer.

"Where all that kind of thinking is wrong," said Jack Button, Washington director of player personnel and recruitment, "is that Khristich is a member of our organization. He was drafted No. 6 in the 1988 draft [the same one in which Reggie Savage and Tim Taylor, both with the Skipjacks, were selected], so we got him in exactly the same way most of our young players were obtained.

"Also, I still believe the main purpose of any professional sports team is to win, and in order to win, you try and get the best available players. I don't care if they are Canadian, American, Russian, French or what have you."

* The United States will compete in hockey in the World Winter Games for the Deaf, March 2-9, 1991 in Banff, Alberta. The U.S. team, coached by Gene Ubriaco, former coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Baltimore Skipjacks, will participate against teams from the Soviet Union and Canada.

The games will feature winter teams from 17 countries. This is the first time in the 15-year history of the games that hockey will be in the competition. The U.S. team will be made up of players who got their start playing for Ubriaco and Stan Mikita at the American Hearing Impaired Hockey School in Chicago.

"We are going to have our work cut out for us," said Ubriaco. "We have only 35 players to choose from. Russia has seven deaf teams, and Canada has many deaf teams to choose from. Our youngest player is 16 and our oldest is 27. All of our kids played at our school."

Mikita, who played for 22 years in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks, and Ubriaco have been running their deaf hockey school for 17 years.

"We've had a lot of very rewarding experiences," said Ubriaco. "This is a very dedicated bunch of guys, and I think we'll do real well despite the odds being stacked against us."

* Being a hockey official is a dangerous job. Several referees and linesmen have been injured this season by flying pucks, wayward sticks and in breaking up fights. The latest official to be injured is linesman Mark Vines, who was struck in the nose by a puck in the first period of the Detroit Red Wings-Philadelphia Flyers game last Saturday and was taken to a hospital after receiving stitches in his face.

* After three Montreal Canadiens were arrested Friday for their involvement in a brawl outside a Winnipeg nightclub, coach Pat Burns noticed that his players -- Shayne Corson, Mike Keane and Brian Skudland -- had gotten the worst of the damage in the fight.

"I'd like to find out who those other guys were and sign them," Burns said.

* The Skipjacks have drawn 53,681 to 17 games at the Baltimore Arena this season, an average of 3,155, and rank 10th among the 15 teams in the AHL in attendance. Rochester is the league-leader, averaging 6,149 for 15 home games and Hershey is second with a 4,809 average for 15 games.

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