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Svitov gets tough at juniors

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 5, 2002

CHICAGO -- For those not following the exploits of Russia's Alexander Svitov at the World Junior Championships, well, it was quite a saga.

The Lightning's top draft pick apparently spit on Canada's Brian Sutherby in a round-robin game Saturday. He beat up Switzerland's Beat Forster on Sunday.

Depending on whom you ask, that was either a valiant rescue of a teammate cross-checked into the boards or a beat-down helped by two teammates who held the Swiss player.

General manager Rick Dudley said, "That's not how I got it," when asked Friday about it.

"I guess he grabbed the guy and beat him unmercifully," Dudley said. "The action might not have been the brightest, but I'll take the motivation."

Svitov had two goals and an assist and led the event with 43 penalty minutes.

Dudley praised Svitov for not leaving his family and a two-year military obligation after signing a three-year, $3.6-million contract with Tampa Bay.

"This kid is known far and wide for his character," Dudley said. "At 17 and 18 years old he was regaled by his elite league team for leadership and commitment. He's a guy whose teammate was cross-checked into the boards. Did he overdo it? Maybe. Was the premise understandable? Probably."

WELCOME BACK: The last time Nikolai Khabibulin played in Chicago, the police were called after the goalie hit a fan with his stick.

It was during the 2000 IHL playoffs after Khabibulin, playing for Long Beach during his holdout from the Coyotes, lost to the Chicago Wolves.

"The fan yelled something," Khabibulin said. "I wasn't too happy about the loss and I speared him. I didn't even hear what he said. It was something and I heard my name."

Khabibulin said he apologized and the matter was resolved when he gave the fan an autographed stick.

"Usually I don't get into confrontations like that," Khabibulin said. "The fans pay their money, they can say anything they want."

OLD FRIENDS: Right wing Martin St. Louis and Chicago star Eric Daze were buddies in Laval, Quebec. From ages 10-15, St. Louis played for the town's west side teams. Daze played for the east.

"He was dominant," St. Louis said. "He was such a big guy."

Didn't matter, though.

"We beat them all the time," St. Louis said.

ODDS AND ENDS: Alexander Polushin, drafted 47th, had two goals, three assists for Russia in the World Juniors. ... Right wing Ben Clymer, left wing Zdeno Ciger and defenseman Kristian Kudroc were healthy scratches.

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