Sports teams representing Washington and Moscow clash for the first time tonight at Capital Centre, where the National Hockey League Capitals oppose Dynamo of the Soviet Major League.
This is the conclusion of a nine-game tour of NHL cities by Dynamo and Central Red Army, the Soviet champion.It is the only one of the nine that will not be watched by a sellout crowd, since the absence of the usual season-ticket base promises a turnout of fewer than 5,000 tonight.
After an opening 6-2 loss in Vancouver, Dynamo has thrashed Winnipeg, 7-0, and Edmonton, 4-1. Since the Red Army team compiled a 3-2 record, the Soviets are already assured victory in the overall series. Dynamo, the second-place Soviet team, must rank as the favorite tonight, despite the Capitals' fine play in recent games.
"The Capitals are a very strong team," Dynamo Coach Vitali Davidov said with the assistance of interpreter Mikhail Grachev after yesterday's workout at Fort Dupont. "Seven points in the last five games is a very good result."
Davidov said the Soviets had not scouted the Capitals, but "only in the paper we know the results of the Washington Capitals. I do see some names I knew before -- (Robert) Picard, (Guy) Charron, (Bengt) Gustafson. The players from Sweden we know because we play against them."
Davidov and his team left before the Capitals took the ice for their practice, but in parting Davidov said, "We can see everywhere real hospitality of the Canadian and American people. To return that hospitality our aim is to show a high standard of play tomorrow."
Several Soviet players handed their sticks to young women in the audience as they left, and they were willing to sign autographs. The Soviet players, with rare exceptions, were largely outfitted in Western gear, from Bauer skates to Cooper goalie pads to CCM pants to Koho sticks. Most wore Jofa helmets, from Czechoslovakia.
Among the stars for Dynamo are right wing Aleksandr Maltsev, a veteran of 103 Olympic and World Championship games; linemates Vladimir and Aleksandr Golikov, brothers who were impressive in the Soviets' Challenge Cup success a year ago; center Yuri Lebedev, a pickup from the Soviet Wings; goalie Vladimir Myshkin, another Wings player who shut out the NHL in the Challenge Cup final, and veteran defenseman Valeri Vasilyev.
There have been no untoward incidents as a result of the Afghanistan crisis, according to Al Wiseman, the NHL security man who has accompanied the team on its tour. However, this is Dynamo's only appearance in the United States and sightseeing plans yesterday were modified, restricting the players to two visits to the Soviet Embassy. There will be considerable extra security at Capital Centre tonight.
The Capitals are treating the exhibition as an opportunity to gain some prestige. Vancouver's success was largely attributed to jet lag, since Dynamo had little time to rest after the long flight from Moscow. A victory over the Soviets at the finish of their tour would carry far more weight.
Whereas the Soviets apparently did not scout the Capitals, Washington had Dennis Hextall watch Dynamo's games in Winnipeg and Edmonton, besides obtaining films of the contest in Vancouver.
"The Soviets are exciting to watch and for people who really like hockey this is a great chance to see it played well," said Washington Coach Gary Green. "Naturally, we think we can win, but we have to be more conscious of play in the neutral zone, where they dominate. They are constantly circling and trying to break in behind the defense."
Most of the Capitals have played against the Soviets at some level of competition, from junior exhibitions to World Championships. So only a few -- Tom Rowe, Picard and Gary Inness, who will start in goal for Washington -- bothered to come out early to watch the Soviet practice.
"We have to be more disciplined," said Rowe, the Capitals' only American player. "In the NHL, you can make a mistake and get back, but these guys burn you. They criss-cross a lot and you can't chase them. You have to play your wing. You have to get on their defensemen, too. If you can frustrate them, they start griping at each other and they can be had."
"We have to make sure we never run around," said Picard, who faced the Soviets in the last two World Championships. "If we start chasing them and running around like chickens with our heads off, they'll hammer us. We have to hit the man who passed the puck, even if he's 10 feet away. That's the key to breaking up their offense."
"They know at every time where they are on the ice and what they're going to do," said Guy Charron, another veteran of World Championship play. "It will be a skating game against the Russians. We have to be prepared to skate for 60 minutes. Nobody likes the Russians, but they're very talented people. We have to make the least mistakes possible."
What Charron means is that on the basis of 1 to 10, the Capitals had better be ready for a 9-plus game. The Soviets now understand that kind of rating system.
Inveterate movie goers on their North American trips, the Soviets were intrigued by the title "10" on a local marquee. Bill Brooks, the Maryland State Police officer who is aiding in security here, explained the Bo Derek vehicle.
"Ah, sex, sex," said Myshkin. "We go, we go."
Nyet, said the visiting commissars. The team watched "Apocalypse Now" instead.