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16 сентября 2002 года
Panthers: `Tank' (Юшкевич) treads softly - Sun-Sentinel

By Michael Russo

CORAL SPRINGS · Dmitry Yushkevich started the verbal jousting with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and now he has decided to put an end to it.

In July the Maple Leafs sent the veteran defenseman for a physical near his California home to examine a blood clot behind his right knee. They told him it was for insurance purposes, but Yushkevich soon learned the physical was at the request of the Panthers, who were trying to trade for him.

Upset at what he said was the Maple Leafs' latest lie, Yushkevich said, "The only one who tells the truth is [Leafs mascot] Carlton the Bear, because he doesn't say anything."

Over the weekend, while trying to justify the Yushkevich-for-Robert Svehla trade, Maple Leafs General Manager and coach Pat Quinn shot back: "Dmitry was not as assertive a player the past two years. When was the last time you saw him hit anybody?"

Yushkevich's response?

"Pat Quinn, he. ... You know what? I don't think I should comment. Pat has his own opinions."

Yushkevich then chose to end the war of words and turn the page to a new chapter that could be titled Russian Tank Invades South Florida.

Nicknamed Russian Tank when he began his career in Philadelphia, Yushkevich, 30, is considered identical in style to Svehla. They're Eastern European, have scarred faces that document battles they've been through and are bald. They also are family men. Yushkevich and his wife, Oksana, have 5-year-old triplets named Dmitry Jr., Julia and Abegail.

On the ice, they're relentless players who hit, throw their bodies in front of slap shots, log massive amounts of ice time, play against top lines and play through injuries that would sideline most.

"To me personally, the bottom line is to win the game," Yushkevich said. "I do on the ice what you have to do to win. Sometimes it's putting your body [in front of] a puck, sometimes it's crushing a player, sometimes it's trying to score. Whatever it takes, I do."

And like Svehla, Yushkevich is respected by teammates and tries to be a role model to young players.

"He plays the game the way we all like it played," Panthers General Manager Rick Dudley said. "He doesn't leave much on the ice. ... You look at him walking around here, how built he is, he's a guy who's ultimately prepared.

"You can see he spends as much time as it takes to be ready to play a hockey season. As a veteran it rubs off. It certainly rubs off on kids who look at him and say, `That's a guy that has played a long time very successfully, and that's what I have to be like right there.'"

Yushkevich said the blood clot that caused him to miss the final 27 games of last season and all of the playoffs has disappeared. "My latest blood test showed everything's fine," he said.

Many of his problems at the end in Toronto came because he was angry the Maple Leafs wouldn't use him in the playoffs. Toronto was concerned that his condition was life-threatening, and Yushkevich was willing to sign a waiver absolving the team of any liability. The Leafs refused. Yushkevich says he overreacted to that decision, but now understands.

Yushkevich disagrees with Quinn that he's less assertive. However, he says he's a little more cautious at trying to make hits because he doesn't want to create odd-man rushes. But he's still intimidating.

"It's like playing [Darius] Kasparaitis," Panthers center Viktor Kozlov said. "He can hit and hurt you. If you lose him on the ice for a couple of seconds and you have the puck, you better be ready to get hit. You need to be aware where he is, like [Scott] Stevens and guys like that."

Kozlov knows Yushkevich well because both got their start playing for Moscow Dynamo. Dynamo is the Russian team assigned to the KGB, which has a number of levels including the police, government security, airport security and border security.

Yushkevich and Kozlov said they didn't really have a role in the KGB. Asked if he was a secret agent, Yushkevich said, laughing, "I can't really talk about that."

With Yushkevich looking for a contract similar to the one Kasparaitis received from the New York Rangers (six years, $27 million), the Panthers signed him to a one-year, $2.75 million deal. His arrival could be just a rental that results in Yushkevich being traded by the March 11 deadline or lost via free agency after July 1. Yushkevich says he hopes things work out here.

"If management here is happy with me, with my health and the way I play, if they want to sign me to a long-term deal, I'd love it," Yushkevich said.

Страничка Дмитрия Юшкевича на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


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