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
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
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