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Dmytro Khristich
Khristich overdue for breakout game

"Dima" needs to pick up the level of his play against Poland for his team to succeed

Ukraine's engine awoke yesterday in time to make a game of it against Slovakia. For nearly two years, Ukraine's offense has been, to be fair, inconsistent. The player usually expected to generate some type of offense is forward Dmitri Khristich. While he offers no excuses for their scoring woes, he does think compatibility has something to do with it.

"We play for different teams," he said. "I am in the NHL, some guys play in Germany, others in Russia, that does not allow us a chance to really work as a group."

After being shut out in their first game, Ukraine gave Slovakia all they could handle. Ukraine lost 5-4 but they were impressive enough to earn the praise of their opponents.

"Ukraine is an old school Russian-style team," said Peter Bondra. "They played us physically and gave us no room in their end. This was an impressive performance by Ukraine."

Khristich registered an assist on Roman Salnikov's second period goal that tied the game. As one of Ukraine's most experienced forwards, Khristich's awakening might come just in time to finish off Poland and move Ukraine into the Qualifying Round.

It seems like just yesterday that Khristich was being introduced to North American hockey scene when he signed with the Washington Capitals.

Previously Khristich was a member of Sokol Kiev for several seasons. Other players on those Kiev teams were current national mates Valery Shyryaev, Valentin Oletsky, Vyacheslav Timchenko, and Yuri Gunko.

Khristich was a member of the Russian junior national team in 1989 that won a gold medal. It was perhaps one of the finest junior squads in Russian history, with future stars Pavel Bure, Alexander Mogilny, and Sergei Fedorov. Then as a member of the 1990 men's national team, Khristich earned another gold.

He credits his development to the hockey he's experienced on both sides of the Atlantic.

"There is no question the things I learned early on helped my career," said Khristich. "Being able to use some of those things in the NHL, but also improving my game there has made me a better player."

Since 1990, he has appeared in 812 NHL games, the most by a Ukrainian player in the league. Khristich's flexibility has been his greatest strength throughout his career. He can play either wing and in both special team situations. Khristich has scored 259 goals, most from in close on the net. He is good on his skates with terrific balance. He's not flashy as some of his Eastern European counterparts but has made a career because of his versatility. He is defensively responsible, suffering only three minus years in the NHL.

In December of 2000, Khristich was traded back to the Capitals after a five-year stint in Los Angeles and Toronto. In his first 11 games back, he scored 14 points and seemed to be the Khristich of old ,but a hamstring injury in January cost him five games; he was not the same effective player.

With the hullabaloo surrounding Jaromir Jagr's arrival to the Capitals, Khristich was lost in the shuffle. He finished the current campaign playing a limited role and his scoring significantly dropped off, scoring nine goals in 61 games. Before the season he averaged 23 goals a season.

At 32, Khristich is the second senior ranking member of the team behind Shyryaev. As he's played so many seasons overseas, Khristich admits to having made adjustments when participating at the World Championships.

"Like everyone else who plays in the NHL, I have to get used to the big ice and different systems but it all comes down to being involved in the action and playing hard."

An involved Khristich can bring positive results for Ukraine,both today and throughout the remainder of the tournament.

John Sanful





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