- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2002

Washington Capitals coach Ron Wilson moved the personnel around on two of his lines yesterday, demoting Andrei Nikolishin to the fourth line and upgrading Dmitri Khristich to the second. Nikolishin was not pleased; Khristich was Khristich, taking things one day at a time.
"I don't think it means anything," Khristich said, referring to Wilson's propensity for juggling lines as games progress. But Wilson saw more in the move.
"We're looking for production, and we're looking for production from our centers," he said. "Nikolishin has struggled lately, so maybe Khristich in a short period of time can add a little bit of spark to our lineup offensively."
Nikolishin has fallen on hard times. He has only two assists in his last 16 games playing with the team's best forwards and also is minus-8 defensively not a good report card for a center whose strength is supposed to be defense.
Not that Khristich is breaking any records. He hasn't scored a goal in his last 16 games and has been a healthy scratch 19 times this season, including two of the last four games. But Khristich is one of the game's enigmas, a highly talented and swift player who seems to turn it on only when he wants to.
In his first tour with the Caps, he had 119 goals in less than five full seasons but was traded to Los Angeles, then to Boston, went to Toronto as a free agent after the Bruins refused to pay his arbitration award and was picked up by the Caps again for a mid-level draft pick. It was a cheap price to pay for a skilled player who scored more than 25 goals in a season six times and has 258 in his career.
But the problem has been motivating the 32-year-old. Wilson may have found an answer earlier in the season when he benched Khristich, an expensive solution for a guy making $3.2 million.
"That's the only time I've really seen him respond," Wilson said. He scored four of his five goals in quick order but has only one since early December.
Khristich said he believes the problem with his lack of consistency is a lack of consistency in keeping lines together in the NHL. He said he grew up in a system where units were formed and stayed together until retirement or injury.
"When I first came here [1990-91], I saw all the coaches juggle lines, but I think [Wilson] does it more than anybody else," said Khristich, who never played for Jim Schoenfeld. "In a game you could play with almost everybody. And when your game is not at a very confident level,that hurts."
Notes Richard Fairbank, chairman and CEO of Capital One Financial Corp., has joined Lincoln Holdings LLC as an investor and partner, according to Ted Leonsis, majority owner of the Caps. The holding company owns 100 percent of the Caps and 44 percent of Washington Sports and Entertainment, which has the right of first refusal to purchase the outstanding shares of Abe Pollin's sports and arena holdings.
Wilson stayed true to his word practices would be tougher than usual until the team starts playing at a level he feels it can. Yesterday's drill was 40 minutes of high intensity skating. It was Peter Bondra's 34th birthday, and he got the customary pie in the face. One fan at Piney Orchard wore a No. 18 Bondra jersey from his brief holdout tour with the Detroit Vipers of the defunct International Hockey League. The jersey already might be a collector's item; Bondra played only seven games there in 1995 and the team is now out of business.

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