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Dmitri Orlov: "I Really Want to Stay In Washington"

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If your head has grown weary of trying to calculate all the new possible line combinations and you're ready to take a break from all things trade-related, I bring you this nice little diversion. In yesterday's issue of Sport Express, new Hershey Bear and Cap hopeful Dmitri Orlov shared his thoughts on his immediate and future plans with fellow countryman Slava Malamud.

"In Novokuznetsk it's freezing right now" said Dmitri thoughtfully, stirring milk into his cup of coffee. Orbiting Dmitri Orlov were, in order of proximity: your correspondent, the Verizon Center press box, stands filled with screaming Washingtonians, and the capital of the United States of America being shaken by hurricane force winds. But there wasn't any freezing weather nearby. And that pleased Dmitri.

While Washington was enthusiastically losing to the Rangers, the young Russian defenseman and I chatted about his arrival from abroad and his plans for the near future. Orlov has, like all things Russian, been warmly embraced by the Washington fans as a precautionary measure, and has already practiced a couple of times with the Capitals and readied himself for his first match with the Hershey Bears (in which, by the way, he had an assist) the next day.

"I really, really like it here" said Dmitri, meaning the Washington arena and its mad inhabitants. "Honestly, I don't even want to go to Hershey! I'd rather just stay here. I was able to practice three times, twice with the entire team. I'm very satisfied, although it was difficult. Now I know what I need to work towards."

What's the situation with your contract?

"We bought out the last year of my contract with Metallurg, so next year I most definitely will be here. I'll come this summer to training camp and try to make the team...By the way, I was a little surprised that I was recently invited to practice. It's just that I wasn't able to attend the road game with Hershey since I didn't have a Canadian visa."

Has that problem been resolved?

"Yeah, I have just sent in all my documents."

How good is your English?

"Not very good right now. There are a lot of Russian guys here who are always helping me, but I'm trying. It's already becoming a lot easier to understand things, but it is difficult to say anything. I think that Kugryshev will help me in Hershey."

Have you had a chance to observe the AHL? What are your thoughts about this being considered a grinding league?

"Yeah, I've seen two games. After I've played a bit, then I'll be able to form an opinion about the league. But right now it doesn't seem to be a grinding league to me.  They played in an orderly fashion. There were two fights, but nothing serious. I didn't see any of the things I'd been told about."

And if you have to spend all of next season in the AHL?

"That's no big deal. That's why I signed a contract, so that I could try to make it to Washington. And so I'll try. But even if I spend all year in Hershey I'm not going to get upset. I'll mature. I've already been able to understand that practice is really hard in the NHL, and in general the hockey is keenly different."

Does Boudreau drive the guys hard?

"Basically, yes. Today I skated I the pregame warm-up together with King and they really drove us hard. True, Boudreau wasn't there, but it was hard."

You are an offensive-minded defenseman. Will you have to somehow change your game for the NHL?

"Yeah, I have objectives besides defending my own net. We'll see how it turns out. There are also some offensive-minded defensemen here, Green and Carlson. I'll try to show my strengths."

Were there a lot of fans at your practices?

"Yeah, and it was impressive. You don't see that at practice in Novokuznetsk. It's wintertime there and not a lot of people go to the games. A few of the fans in Novokuznetsk knew me, but not very many. However, I'm used to that. In Russia only the superstars are recognized in person."

Have you sensed just how much Russians are loved in Washington?

"Yeah, that was immediately visible. It's a special atmosphere here, and everything is great on the team. I spent two days with them and I really enjoyed it."

Has anything in America managed to surprise you?

"I really haven't seen anything yet. I sit in my hotel room. My main impression has been getting acquainted with our guys-Ovechkin, Semin and Varlamov. I went out to dinner with them. They are great guys."

Your impression of the country didn't suffer after the Buffalo airport incident?

"I haven't even thought about that at all. The press just made a big noise about it. The guys were simply really happy. We had gold medals hanging on our chests-what other kind of emotions do you think there could be then, especially after returning home after a difficult tournament? This is happiness. That is why I have only the most joyful of recollections."

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