BALTIMORE, DEC. 14 -- Dimitri Khristich may end up having a wonderful hockey career in the NHL, but his debut in the Washington Capitals organization tonight was rather uneventful.
Khristich, the youngest Soviet player to be allowed to sign with an NHL team, began his Capitals career with the club's Baltimore farm team.
Let the record show he had no points and the Skipjacks let a three-goal first-period lead disappear en route to a 6-5 loss to the Rochester Americans in front of 3,093 at Baltimore Arena.
Skipjacks Coach Rob Laird was fuming at his team's loss, so when asked if he could tell much from one day with Khristich, he snapped: "No."
After a pause, he added, "It's a tough game to evaluate. He got shortchanged on a couple shifts because of penalties. I think he'll come along and be a good player, but it was a hard game to evaluate."
Laird was bothered by the defeat and probably also by some of the published comments made by some of his Skipjacks on the attention paid to Khristich by the organization. The Baltimore Evening Sun said several players, including Steve Maltais and Rob Murray, who were recently sent down, were upset.
Laird closed the locker room, despite rules against that sort of things. Khristich told interpreter John Chapin he didn't want to talk about the game.
Much of the Capitals' braintrust was in the press box to watch the most recent import play. General Manager David Poile, Director of Player Personnel and Recruitment Jack Button and Coach Terry Murray all were on hand. They saw him make a couple of moves and take a couple of shots -- one from in the slot -- but not score.
"He's a very intelligent player," Terry Murray said. "Positionally, he played very well. He was feeling his way around. With all the things that happened in the last few days, it's going to take time to get adjusted."
Khristich, 21, arrived Tuesday from Kiev. The plan was to have him play tonight, Saturday and possibly Sunday with the Skipjacks. Then he would join the Capitals for their game in New York on Monday. This plan seems somewhat flexible, so the date of his NHL debut is uncertain.
"If he plays two of the three games and then has a night off to rest, that might be enough," Murray said this morning after the Capitals' practice at Mount Vernon Recreation Center.
"We'll watch and take a read after the first two games."
Khristich likely will play left wing, which is also where Maltais plays. Maltais was sent down Wednesday and expressed some frustration.
"It seems like everything is handed to them when they come over here," Maltais was quoted as saying in the Evening Sun. "The organization is sure making it a lot tougher on us. These guys are taking our jobs."
Poile said professional hockey is a business that doesn't favor nationalities.
"I was in Atlanta in 1980 when we signed Jim Craig after the biggest week in American hockey history," Poile said, referring to the U.S. Olympic team's gold-medal performance. "Our goalie, Pat Riggin, wouldn't even shake Craig's hand and came out with a comment that there were too many Americans taking Canadians' jobs. If it was said, I think it was an emotional reaction.
"It doesn't matter if you're Canadian, American, Russian, black or white. It's competition. That is what life is about, regardless of what business you're in. Whether you are a hockey player or working for an insurance company, we all have to keep improving all the time or you come to a point where you're replaced. But I understand the emotion, if that is what was said."