2010 Olympic Hockey Outlook: Team Slovakia
Slovakia is the sixth of an eight-part series previewing the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Other team previews can be found here: Russia | Canada | USA | Sweden | Czech Republic | Finland | Mexico (Satire)
Despite not fielding one of the most talent-laden rosters in the Olympics, this team may be the most determined of all of them to prove itself.
After poor results in the 1998 and 2002 games, the Slovaks burst onto the international stage in a big way in Turin.
They hammered their way to an undefeated record through an impressive group that included Russia, the United States, and Gold-medal winner Sweden.
They would later fall to arch-rival Czech Republic to be eliminated from the medal games.
With all-star caliber players in Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik and Zdeno Chara, the Slovaks will only have one goal in Vancouver - win at all cost.
C Pavol Demitra, Vancouver Canucks
LW Marian Gaborik, Minnesota Wild
RW Marian Hossa, Detroit Red Wings
C Michal Handzus, Los Angeles Kings
LW Ladislav Nagy, Severstal Cherepovets
RW Miroslav Satan, Pittsburgh Penguins
C Lubos Bartecko, Lulea HF
LW Richard Zednik, Florida Panthers
RW Branko Radivojevic, Spartak Moscow
C Martin Cibak, Sodertalje HC
LW Marek Svatos, Colorado Avalanche
RW Tomas Kopecky, Detroit Red Wings
Slovakia will field a decent offense, but it is aging. The days of Peter Bondra and Ziggy Palffy are over, and many of the current stars are in their 30s.
The first line will be very formidable, assuming it is healthy. Two-way superstar Marian Hossa will be matched with speed demon Marian Gaborik. Pavol Demitra will again be the center.
The second line is one of the oldest lines in the Olympics, with an average age of 31.3 years of age. Miroslav Satan is the grandpa of the group at 34. Handzus has had a down year in Los Angeles and Nagy has left for the KHL. Satan and Nagy will both need to play better hockey than what they are at the moment.
The third line brings some promise. Richard Zednik has had a resurgence in Florida, while Bartecko has been a figure in Slovak hockey for many years now. He doesn't have the jump he used to, but is still an effective player.
The fourth line, centered by Martin Cibak, has several good two-way players. Kopecky is also good defensively. Marek Svatos will bring a scoring touch to the line, but he will most likely also play defense first.
Jozef Stumpel, Barys Astana; Richard Panik, Trinec Ocelari; Juraj Kolnik, Geneve-Servette. The 36-year-old Stumpel can still play at an Olympic level. Panik is a tremendous young player but may be too young for Filc. He will need to play excellent hockey in the NHL after he is drafted to get a spot. Kolnik made an average NHL forward and he plays tremedously in Switzerland, so he may see time.
LD Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
RD Andrej Meszaros, Tampa Bay Lightning
LD Lubomir Visnovsky, Edmonton Oilers
RD Milan Jurcina, Washington Capitals
LD Andrej Sekera, Buffalo Sabres
RD Kristian Kudroc, Sodertalje HC
Zdeno Chara is the big name on this list, literally. He is an imposing figure on the ice at 6'9" and will most likely captain this team. He will be partnered with an improved Andrej Meszaros.
The second pairing will also bring together the young and the old of Slovak hockey. Power-play expert Visnovsky has played on the international stage for many years now, and Jurcina is a defensive force who can also dish the puck.
For the third pairing, younger Andrej Sekera will be matched with veteran Kristian Kudroc of the Swedish Elite League. He is of the same build as Chara, measured at 6'7" 230 lbs.
Vladimir Mihalik, Tampa Bay Lightning; Branislav Mezei, Barys Astana; Ivan Baranka, Spartak Moscow. All of these players are young and have NHL potential.
G Jaroslav Halak, Montreal Canadiens
G Peter Budaj, Colorado Avalanche
It's truly an open competition for the starting job. Most nations have an established top goalie, but Budaj and Halak will most likely be battling for the position right up til the games begin.
Halak probably has the slightest advantage at the moment, but it is still early. Budaj may have more opportunity as long as Halak is stuck behind Carey Price.
Karol Krizan, MoDo HC; Jan Lasak, Pardubice
No medal. They will not make the medal round.
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