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Slovenia makes Olympic debut vs. Russia

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:52 AM

Mike Battaglino - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Slovenia makes Olympic debut vs. Russia
Russia vs. Slovenia

RUSSIA vs. SLOVENIA

When: Thursday, 7:30 a.m. ET (MSNBC, CBC)

Where: Bolshoy Ice Dome

What's at stake: Carrying the weight of the world, the wait of an entire country will end when the home team makes its 2014 Sochi Olympics debut against one making its first Olympic appearance. Russia, a nation of approximately 144 million people with 2,800 men's hockey players, takes on Slovenia, a nation of approximately 2 million with 148 male players, in Group A.

"This is a very important game," Russia coach Zinetula Bilyaletinov said. "It doesn't matter who the competitor is, in any case we'll have to prepare. This is the first game so we have to be ready. That's it."

Russia: The glamour contingent of these games finally gets a chance to compete. Expect the offensively gifted team to try to put on a show in its debut.

Captain Pavel Datsyuk will play after arriving with a lower-body injury that caused him to miss a month's worth of games for the Detroit Red Wings and the opening practice in Sochi. One of 16 NHL players on the roster, he worked on a power-play unit Wednesday which included Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals) and Ilya Kovalchuk.

"Right now, I play for my country at home, and this is another crazy moment," Ovechkin said Tuesday. "I'm pretty sure you can ask any Canadian guy, 'What's the biggest moment for them when they play for national team?' Of course, it's home Olympic games. It's probably biggest moment for me."

Semyon Varlamov (Colorado Avalanche) will start in goal.

Slovenia: Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar is the only NHL player on the roster. The team qualified for the games by defeating Belarus and Denmark without him.

"We can't control what [Russia is] going to do," Kopitar told the Los Angeles Times. "I'm sure they're going to be flying for the first game, but I think if we put up the performance that we want to put up, I think everybody's going to be surprised how well we can play."

Matjaz Kopitar, Anze's father, is the coach. David Rodman, who plays in Sweden (22 points in 29 games), scored two goals in the win that got Slovenia into the tournament. Robert Kristan (2.61 goals-against average, .912 save percentage in Slovakia) is expected to start in goal.

"It will be exciting. It's always fun to play the host country," Anze Kopitar said. "You feel like you're playing an away game. … I'm sure they've been looking forward to this day for a long, long time too. The crowd's going to be fired up and we're going to be fired up, so it should be a good match."

What's next: Russia faces the United States on Saturday in one of the most highly anticipated preliminary-round games. The winner will have the inside track to first place in Group A and a coveted bye into the quarterfinals. Slovenia plays Slovakia with the winner of that game likely grabbing third place in the group.

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
Slovenia
# Forwards Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
71 B. Golicic 6'0" 194 6/12/1989 Kranj, SLO
8 Z. Jeglic 6'1" 176 2/24/1988 Kranj, SLO
11 A. Kopitar LAK 6'3" 224 8/24/1987 Jesenice, SLO
92 A. Kuralt 5'9" 176 10/31/1991 Kranj, SLO
39 J. Mursak 5'11" 187 1/20/1988 Maribor, SLO
16 A. Music 5'9" 181 6/28/1982 Ljubljana, SLO
19 Z. Pance 6'1" 196 1/1/1989 Ljubljana, SLO
9 T. Razingar 6'1" 216 4/25/1979 Jesenice, SLO
12 D. Rodman 6'1" 183 9/10/1983 Jesenice, SLO
22 M. Rodman 6'1" 187 9/25/1981 Jesenice, SLO
55 R. Sabolic 6'0" 198 9/18/1988 Jesenice, SLO
24 R. Ticar 5'11" 181 5/3/1989 Jesenice, SLO
26 J. Urbas 6'3" 216 1/26/1989 Ljubljana, SLO
91 M. Verlic 6'4" 190 8/21/1991 Maribor, SLO
# Defense Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
15 B. Gregorc 6'3" 209 1/18/1990 Jesenice, SLO
86 S. Kovacevic 6'3" 209 2/26/1986 Jesenice, SLO
28 A. Kranjc 6'0" 201 7/29/1981 Jesenice, SLO
17 Z. Pavlin 6'4" 214 4/30/1985 Kranj, SLO
14 M. Podlipnik 5'11" 181 8/9/1992 Jesenice, SLO
7 K. Pretnar 5'11" 181 8/31/1986 Bled, SLO
51 M. Robar 5'10" 190 1/4/1983 Maribor, SLO
4 A. Tavzelj 6'2" 209 3/14/1984 Jesenice, SLO
# Goalies Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
40 L. Gracnar 5'10" 187 10/31/1993 Jesenice, SLO
1 A. Hocevar 6'0" 183 11/21/1984 Ljubljana, SLO
33 R. Kristan 6'0" 187 4/4/1983 Jesenice, SLO