- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 24, 2006

Washington Capitals coach Glen Hanlon left little doubt when asked what he wanted from left wing Alexander Semin, recently reacquired after a two-year tour in the Russian Super League.

“A lot of goals,” he said without bothering to think about a response, “but not to ignore his defensive responsibilities. I expect some games you won’t even notice he’s there then there’s a faceoff and bang! It’s in the net. Goal-scorers are unique and that’s what we need from him.”

The Russian-born Semin, who speaks virtually no English, returns to the Capitals after ending a prolonged dispute over failing to report to a Washington farm team three seasons ago. He says he had to fulfill a military obligation, a claim the Caps disputed from the start. He also had troubles last season in Russia when his Super League team ran out of money and he was shuffled around like a poor relative.

“He’s happy it’s over,” said Audrius Zubrus, brother of center Dainius Zubrus and a Caps sales department employee who served as Semin’s translator yesterday. “He wishes he could have been here earlier but because of all that stuff, whatever, it really wasn’t his decision to be here or not to be here.”

Drafted 13th overall by the Caps in 2002, Semin wasn’t on Washington’s radar until he started lighting things up in Russia a year later. He was brought over for the 2003-04 season and had 10 goals and 22 points in 52 games. He scored the Caps’ first exhibition goal this season.

Semin indicated he “was happy to be back.”

The Caps are hoping he can help spread out the scoring load; Alex Ovechkin, a rookie last season, had nearly a quarter of the team’s goals. The plan is to unite the pair on power plays but to separate them otherwise to create more problems for the defense.

While communication with the coaching staff could come slowly for Semin, he understands what the staff is telling him.

“The language itself, he understands pretty much everything people tell him, he just can’t say it himself yet,” Audrius Zubrus said.

Hanlon is familiar with his situation. Also the coach of Belarus’ national team, Hanlon occasionally struggled to communicate with his players over there.

“I’ve tried to do what he’s trying to do and I realize it’s not that easy,” he said. “What I want is for him to play hard, give us a great effort every night, work hard in practice and stay out of trouble. … He’s not the only Russian in the league who can’t speak English.”

Notes The club reassigned seven more players to Hershey, lowering the total still in camp to 29, six above the NHL opening night limit. Sent to the Bears yesterday were goalie Frederic Cassivi, defensemen Timo Helbling, Jamie Hunt and Lawrence Nycholat; and forwards Eric Fehr, Quintin Laing and Dave Steckel. … The Caps play host to New Jersey at 5 p.m. today at the Giant Center in Hershey and then train there for the next two days. They play the Flyers in Philadelphia Tuesday night.

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