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Slovaks face another tough task against Russia

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:50 AM

John Dellapina - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Slovaks face another tough task against Russia
Slovakia vs. Russia
RUSSIA (1-0-0-0) vs. SLOVAKIA (0-1-0-0)

NOTE: records are presented as three-point wins (regulation time), two-point wins (OT or shootout), one-point losses (OT or shootout), zero-point losses (regulation time).
 
What to watch -- Russia merely broke a sweat against Latvia in its Group B opener Tuesday. Slovakia on Wednesday night broke out in the traditional cold sweat that is standard whenever it faces its arch-rival, the Czech Republic.

Actually, the Slovaks probably were fully lathered long before ever beginning Olympic play, what with the scheduler and the injury gods conspiring against them. The only one of the traditional power countries to have to play three games in four nights in group play, Slovakia also drew into the most difficult of the three groups by virtue of their low IIHF seeding, owing to poor results over the last four years.

Under normal circumstances, Slovakia could be expected to give Russia all it could handle. But playing a second straight night against a formidable opponent, Slovakia will be accomplishing a great deal if it merely keeps this a game going into the third period.

Russia's speed and skill should be on display from the drop of the puck. A tired Slovak team will be scrambling to keep up with Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Alexander Semin -- particularly because those NHL stars ought to be significantly sharper in their second Olympic game than their first.

Team Reports:
 
Russia -- Given the delicate task the Russians face in developing instant chemistry among so many highly-skilled, high-profile forwards, the Olympic schedule couldn't have been set up better if GM Vladislav Tretiak had planned it himself.

After a just-competitive-enough opener against Latvia, a former Soviet Socialist Republic that brings passion if not comparable ability, the Russians gradually climb the resistance scale. Slovakia will force the Russian forwards to at least consider back-checking and present the first real test for the club's supposed weakness -- its defense corps.

Russia will look to fine-tune its top two lines after a productive but spotty performance against Latvia. Russia also will turn their net over to Ilya Bryzgalov after Evgeni Nabokov's OK outing in the opener.

Nabokov was sharp through two periods, in which Latvia's chances were few, but there were a couple of good ones. He lost focus in the third, opening the door for Bryzgalov, who is having a brilliant season with Phoenix, to grab Russia's No. 1 job going into the medal round.

Slovakia -- Playing Russia under the best of circumstances is a daunting task. These are anything but the best of circumstances for the Slovakia.

Their top two forwards are banged up. Marian Hossa of the Detroit Red Wings, who suffered a concussion against Columbus last Saturday, and Marian Gaborik, the goal-scoring machine from the New York Rangers, both managed to play against the Czech Republic on Tuesday night. Gaborik scored his country's lone goal in a 3-1 loss, just one week after suffering a deep gash to his thigh during a Rangers practice.

Slovakia at least can make it hurt for the Russians to score their goals. Their big blue-line corps includes 6-foot-9, 255-pound Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins and 6-4, 236-pound Milan Jurcina of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Total NHL players on the rosters: 27 -- 14 Russians and 13 Slovaks.

Puck Drop -- "I hope we're not going to face any surprises. That's why I'm a little cautious to say how we're going to do within our group. But I think the goal of any team is to win your group and play good hockey. So let's stick with the good hockey and solid play on the ice." -- Team Russia center Sergei Fedorov.

Prediction -- The proud Slovaks will keep this close as long as they can. But their age (their forwards are predominantly in their mid-30s) and the demands of playing on consecutive nights against top-tier opponents figures to wear on them. Russia blows it open late in a 7-3 victory.

Slovakia
# Forwards Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
61 M. Bartovic 6'0" 194 4/9/1981 Trencin, SVK
26 M. Handzus CHI 6'5" 215 3/11/1977 Banska Bystrika, SVK
88 Marcel Hossa 6'2" 218 10/12/1981 Ilava, SVK
81 Marian Hossa CHI 6'1" 210 1/12/1979 Stará Lubovna, SVK
13 T. Jurco DET 6'2" 193 12/28/1992 Kosice, SVK
82 T. Kopecky FLA 6'3" 203 2/5/1982 Ilava, SVK
65 T. Marcinko 6'4" 207 4/11/1988 Poprad, SVK
91 M. Miklik 6'0" 198 7/31/1982 Piestany, SVK
85 P. Ölvecky 6'2" 214 10/11/1985 Nove Zamky, SVK
28 R. Panik TBL 6'1" 208 2/7/1991 Martin, SVK
92 B. Radivojevic 6'0" 207 11/24/1980 Piešťany, SVK
43 T. Surovy 6'1" 216 9/24/1981 Banska Bystrica, SVK
90 T. Tatar DET 5'10" 186 12/1/1990 Ilava, SVK
67 T. Zaborsky 5'11" 201 11/14/1987 Trencin, SVK
# Defense Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
7 I. Baranka 6'2" 203 5/19/1985 Ilava, SVK
33 Z. Chara BOS 6'9" 255 3/18/1977 Trencin, SVK
68 M. Jurcina 6'4" 251 6/7/1983 Liptovský Mikuláš, SVK
52 M. Marincin EDM 6'4" 188 2/18/1992 Kosice, SVK
14 A. Meszaros PHI 6'2" 223 10/13/1985 Považská Bystrica, SVK
44 A. Sekera CAR 6'0" 201 6/8/1986 Bojnice, SVK
19 T. Starosta 6'0" 196 5/20/1981 Trencin, SVK
23 R. Vydareny 6'1" 203 5/6/1981 Bratislava, SVK
# Goalies Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
31 P. Budaj MTL 6'1" 192 9/18/1982 Banska Bystrika, SVK
41 J. Halak STL 5'10" 186 5/13/1985 Bratislava, SVK
250 J. Laco 5'11" 183 12/1/1981 Liptovsky Mikulas, SVK
Russia
# Forwards Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
42 A. Anisimov CBJ 6'4" 198 5/24/1988 Yaroslavl, RUS
13 P. Datsyuk DET 5'11" 198 7/20/1978 Sverdlovsk, RUS
71 I. Kovalchuk 6'3" 230 4/15/1983 Tver, RUS
41 N. Kulemin TOR 6'1" 225 7/14/1986 Magnitogorsk, RUS
11 E. Malkin PIT 6'3" 195 7/31/1986 Magnitogorsk, RUS
43 V. Nichushkin DAL 6'4" 205 3/4/1995 Chelyabinsk, RUS
8 A. Ovechkin WSH 6'3" 230 9/17/1985 Moscow, RUS
24 A. Popov 5'10" 181 8/31/1980 Angarsk, RUS
47 A. Radulov 6'1" 200 7/5/1986 Nizhny Tagil, RUS
28 A. Semin CAR 6'2" 209 3/3/1984 Krasnojarsk, RUS
15 A. Svitov 6'4" 234 11/3/1982 Omsk, RUS
91 V. Tarasenko STL 6'0" 219 12/13/1991 Yaroslavl, RUS
27 A. Tereschenko 5'11" 176 12/16/1980 Moznajsk, RUS
10 V. Tikhonov 6'2" 189 5/12/1988 Riga, LAT
# Defense Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
77 A. Belov EDM 6'4" 218 7/29/1986 Ryazan, RUS
26 S. Voynov LAK 6'0" 194 1/15/1990 Chelyabinsk, RUS
74 A. Emelin MTL 6'2" 224" 4/25/1986 Togliatti, RUS
79 A. Markov MTL 6'0" 201 12/20/1978 Voskresensk, RUS
82 Y. Medvedev 6'3" 198 8/27/1982 Chelyabinsk, RUS
6 N. Nikitin CBJ 6'4" 223 6/16/1986 Omsk, RUS
5 I. Nikulin 6'3" 216 3/12/192 Moscow, RUS
51 F. Tyutin CBJ 6'2" 212 7/19/1983 Izhevsk, RUS
# Goalies Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
72 S. Bobrovsky CBJ 6'2" 182 9/20/1988 Novokuznetsk, RUS
1 S. Varlamov COL 6'2" 209 4/27/1988 Samara, RUS
30 A. Eremenko 5'10" 165 4/10/1980 Moscow, RUS