The 1990-91 Super Series, pitting three teams from the Soviet Union against the 21 NHL teams, begins tonight in Los Angeles, with the Kings playing Khimik Voskresensk.
This international interlude to the 80-game NHL schedule comes at a time when several NHL teams are negotiating with Soviet clubs about acquiring players, and the Washington Capitals are involved.
The Capitals, who brought Moscow Dynamo defenseman Mikhail Tatarinov here on Oct. 20, are continuing discussions with Sokol Kiev concerning 21-year-old center Dmitri Kristich. "We've had conversations, but any kind of timetable is unclear," General Manager David Poile said yesterday.
Jack Button, the Capitals' director of player personnel and recruitment, returned home a few days ago after spending several weeks in Europe. While the Capitals are hopeful, there are no guarantees. Kristich was a 1988 draft choice and his team's third-leading scorer last season.
"I keep talking to them," Button said, referring to officials from Sokol Kiev and the Soviet Hockey Federation. "It's somewhat like the Tatarinov situation. One day they could say, 'Everything is fine and he'll be on the way.' "
Besides Khimik, the other Soviet teams in the series are Central Red Army and Moscow Dynamo, whom the Capitals will play Jan. 8 at Capital Centre. The Soviets will wear national colors and NHL teams will wear special league uniforms.
Sokol Kiev won't be part of the tour. But the three participating teams have been picking up players from other teams to use in the series. Button said that Kristich might be among those playing for Central Red Army.
"Kristich told me a long time ago, up in Alaska, that he would only come with permission," Button said.
Defections have become blurred as the Soviet government has allowed more people to leave. Over the weekend, Sokol Kiev defenseman Alexander Godynyuk joined the Toronto Maple Leafs. Though some labeled it a defection, Godynyuk apparently obtained a Soviet visa and is in Canada on a visitor's visa. At issue now is whether the NHL will honor the contract that Sokol Kiev says it has with Godynyuk.
"The Soviets are pretty upset," Button said. "I don't know if it hurts us or not."
Meanwhile, Alfie Turcotte and Steve Maltais who made contributions to Saturday night's win over the Islanders, will rejoin the Capitals today. The two played for Baltimore last night.