- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 22, 2001

Seen and heard last night at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh:

NIKO HONORED Caps center Andrei Nikolishin was added to the Russian Olympic team when the nation announced its final roster. Previously selected to play for Russia was defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who won a silver medal with his country in the Nagano Games four years ago.

"It's amazing to be selected to the national team and play in the Olympics," Nikolishin said after finding out about his selection. "I'm really excited. It's a short tournament, so everybody has a good chance to win."

A strong defensive player who has been upgrading his offensive game, Nikolishin played for Russia in the 1994 Lillehammer Games and the 1996 World Cup, five World Championships and one World Junior Championship. The 28-year-old center was the youngest captain in the history of the Soviet Elite League when he was named to lead Moscow Dynamo at 19.

Also playing on Olympic teams from the Caps are Olie Kolzig (Germany), Jaromir Jagr (Czech Republic) and Peter Bondra (Slovakia). Defenseman Frank Kucera turned down a chance to play for the defending champion Czechs to spend time with his family. The United States and Sweden are scheduled to complete their rosters today.

NO SHIELD Jaromir Jagr returned to the scene of many of his triumphs but there was no apparent animosity between the star wing and the media as there seemed to be during a conference call last July shortly after he was traded to Washington.

"It would be a lot tougher to face Mario Lemieux and Marty Straka," Jagr said of two injured Penguins who did not play against the Caps.

His initial greeting from fans was a mixture of cheers and boos, with the latter a pronounced majority. It was the first time Jagr had been seen in public since Wednesday night, when he was accidentally cut in the mouth, losing a top front tooth and undergoing a root canal procedure. His upper lip still appeared to be slightly swollen.

The right wing experimented with a full facial shield during the morning skate but said it hindered his ability to see the puck, so he would stick with only the visor he normally wears.

Dave Fay

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