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Posted On Tuesday, 01.07.2014 / 4:12 PM

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent / - Road to Sochi blog

Selection by Canada overwhelming for Coyotes' Smith

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When Mike Smith woke up Tuesday morning, there were already two Canadian Olympians in his house.

It took less than 10 minutes for that number to increase.

With his wife and 2010 Canadian Olympic skier Brigitte (Acton) Smith and mother-in-law, 1972 Olympian Diane Pratte looking on, Smith took a phone call from Team Canada Associate Director of Player Personnel Doug Armstrong. When the tears on his face converged with the ear-to-ear smile, everyone knew he had been selected to join Carey Price and Roberto Luongo as the goaltenders for Canada for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"I was trying to hold back the tears," said Smith, whose eyes told all that he failed in that attempt. "Brigette's family was there today. Her mother skied in the Olympics and Brigette skied in the Olympics. The grandparents were there and were saying in their cute little French voices, 'Now there are three Olympians in the house.'

"The whole thing is pretty surreal to me."

Posted On Tuesday, 01.07.2014 / 3:36 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Road to Sochi blog

Jagr: Nedved could be Czech Republic's best player

NEWARK, N.J. -- Jaromir Jagr won't be the oldest player skating for the Czech Republic when his country opens the 2014 Sochi Olympics next month against Sweden.

That distinction will belong to 42-year-old Petr Nedved, who won a silver medal at the 1994 Lillehammer Games playing for Canada. This year's Olympic Games will mark the first time the former Pittsburgh Penguins teammates' will join forces for the Czechs and play for their country at the highest level of international hockey.

Jagr, 41, and Nedved skated two seasons together in Pittsburgh (1995-97). Jagr is currently in his 20th NHL season and first with the New Jersey Devils. Nedved, who spent 15 seasons in the NHL, serves as captain for the provincial team White Tigers Liberec in the Czech league. He has 13 goals and 33 points in 35 games this season.

"I'm happy for Petr; good for him," Jagr said. "On a big ice surface, he can be a big factor. He might be the best player on our team. The main reason the coaching staff chose him was because he played at the [2012] World Championship for Czech and he was better than a lot of the players at that tournament."

Posted On Tuesday, 01.07.2014 / 3:20 PM

By Patrick Williams - Correspondent / - Road to Sochi blog

Lightning's Stamkos keeps sights set on Olympics

WINNIPEG -- Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos faces one final obstacle in his bid to represent Canada at the Sochi Olympics in February.

The 23-year-old center broke his right tibia after crashing into the net in a road game against the Boston Bruins on Nov. 11, and the injury has cost him 25 games. Despite the injury, Hockey Canada named Stamkos to their Olympic team for the first time. Stamkos has scored 14 goals in his 17 games with the Lightning this season and would be a first-time Olympian.

"You're on the team right now," Stamkos said after participating in the Lightning's optional morning skate before their game against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. "That really doesn't mean anything if I can't get back and play. This is a dream come true to be named to the team, but I still have a hard work ahead of me in order to make sure I can play."

Posted On Tuesday, 01.07.2014 / 2:54 PM

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent / - Road to Sochi blog

Koivu foregoes fifth Olympics to focus on Ducks

ANAHEIM -- The decision became clearer for Saku Koivu in the days and weeks after he came back from a concussion. He missed nearly a month, and even though he rebounded strong, Koivu felt he couldn't be at his best for the 2014 Sochi Olympics and declined what would have been his fifth Olympics.

"It's one of the toughest decisions that I've had to make throughout my career," Koivu said. "Sometimes you might be injured at the time and you're just frustrated that it happens, but this one you have a choice. I thought through it many, many times over the past couple of weeks, and I felt that with the concussion and missing five weeks of playing, I felt the training at that time was fairly limited.

"Being at 39, all of these things together, I felt that, physically, I won't be where I want to be when the tournament comes in … it was a dream for me to be there, but the older you get, you have to stay honest with yourself and I felt for me, it's a better option of not going and getting a proper practice time, training time, a bit of a rest and also where we're at as a team here, hopefully we have a chance to go and do something in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs. Like I said, it wasn't easy at all. I hope I made the right choice."

Posted On Tuesday, 01.07.2014 / 2:04 PM

By Joe Yerdon - Correspondent / - Road to Sochi blog

Hurricanes' Eric Staal, Semin don't make Olympic cut

BUFFALO -- The announcement of the Olympic rosters proved to be an unkind one for a pair of Carolina Hurricanes players. Team captain Eric Staal was not named to Canada's roster and forward Alexander Semin did not make the cut for Russia.

Staal was a member of Canada's 2010 gold-medal winning team at the Vancouver Olympics, but was hampered this season by a knee injury he suffered at the 2013 IIHF World Championship after a knee-on-knee collision with Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler of Sweden. He's currently injured with a separate lower-body injury.

"It [stinks] with that tough injury and for Eric not having the summer he wanted, probably, to get his body right," said Jordan Staal, Eric's brother. "Obviously he was ready for the season, but it's unfortunate that is the way it is."

In the Vancouver Olympics, Staal had one goal and five assists in seven games for Canada.

Posted On Tuesday, 01.07.2014 / 1:30 PM

By Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer / - Road to Sochi blog

Flyers' Giroux disappointed in Canada's decision

NEWARK, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux received the news he wouldn't be headed to the 2014 Sochi Olympics for Canada while preparing for his team's morning skate at Prudential Center on Tuesday.

It wasn't easy.

"[Canada general manager] Steve Yzerman called me [Tuesday] morning; it was a quick talk," Giroux said. "It's obviously disappointing. It was one of my dreams to play for Canada but there's a lot of good players from Canada and the names announced are talented, good players. It's disappointing, but it happens."

Giroux acknowledged the best medicine was the fact he'll lead his club in a Metropolitan Division game with the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday.

"Some believe everything happens for a reason, and if I didn't make this team, there's a reason behind it," he said. "But I'm not upset or mad. It's a tough day, but it's a good thing I have a game so I can just put this behind me and keep moving forward."

Posted On Tuesday, 01.07.2014 / 12:26 PM

By Staff -  / - Road to Sochi blog

Ovechkin, Malkin, Datsyuk top Russia roster

Russia will be able match high-end skill with anyone at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but questions will continue to linger about the team's depth after the host country's 25-man roster was announced Tuesday.

Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk lead a roster that will be trying to win despite the pressure of being on home ice. The Russians also will be trying to make up for a disappointing performance four years ago in Vancouver when they were blitzed by Canada in the quarterfinals.

Those four superstars will be expected to provide a lot of offense, along with former Nashville Predators forward Alexander Radulov. Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens and Fedor Tyutin of the Columbus Blue Jackets are the two veteran NHL players on the defense corps. Semyon Varlamov (Colorado Avalanche) and Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets) are among the three goaltenders, while 2010 starter Evgeni Nabokov (New York Islanders) and backup Ilya Bryzgalov (Edmonton Oilers) did not make the team this time around.

Posted On Tuesday, 01.07.2014 / 10:48 AM

By Staff -  / - Road to Sochi blog

Alfredsson return leads NHL-heavy roster for Sweden

Sweden announced its roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Tuesday, naming a team heavy on NHL players, including veteran Detroit Red Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson, who gets a last shot at Olympic glory.

Sweden will have 12 players back from the team that lost in the quarterfinals four years ago in Vancouver.

Among that group is Alfredsson, who will be playing in his fifth Olympic Games. He had three goals in four games in 2010 in Vancouver. The 41-year-old forward has 11 goals and 30 points in 37 games this season with the Red Wings.

He'll be joined in Sochi by five Red Wings teammates, including four who were on the team in Vancouver: Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, defenseman Niklas Kronwall and forwards Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg. Also named to the team was defenseman Jonathan Ericsson.

Posted On Tuesday, 01.07.2014 / 9:50 AM

By Staff -  / - Road to Sochi blog

Sabres coach Nolan, rookie Girgensons lead Latvia

Buffalo Sabres rookie Zemgus Girgensons is the only current NHL player on Latvia's 25-man roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which was announced Tuesday, but there are others with recent NHL experience.

Girgensons will be coached in Sochi by Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan. This will be Latvia's fourth straight Olympic tournament and fifth in the country's history. The Latvians never have finished higher than ninth.

Eight of the players on the roster are teammates with Dinamo Riga, a Latvian-based team currently fourth in the Western Conference of the Kontinental Hockey League. Among them is former NHL defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh, who played for Latvia in the 2002 and 2006 Olympics but not four years ago in Vancouver.

Posted On Tuesday, 01.07.2014 / 9:26 AM

By Staff -  / - Road to Sochi blog

Chara, Hossa, Halak highlight Slovakia Olympic roster

Slovakia again will not be short on star power at the 2014 Sochi Olympics as the country's 25-man roster announced Tuesday includes Zdeno Chara, Marian Hossa and Jaroslav Halak.

The Slovaks were the surprise team four years ago in Vancouver, qualifying for the semifinals and pushing Canada in that round before losing to Finland in the bronze-medal game. Chara, the Boston Bruins captain, will anchor a defense corps that includes NHL veterans Andrej Sekera (Carolina Hurricanes), Andrej Meszaros (Philadelphia Flyers), Lubomir Visnovsky (New York Islanders) and Edmonton Oilers rookie Martin Marincin.

Hossa, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks, has 12 goals and 25 points in 15 games at the Olympics (three tournaments). He leads a group of forwards that includes Marian Gaborik (Columbus Blue Jackets) and a trio of intriguing young NHL players in Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar from the Detroit Red Wings and Richard Panik from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Halak, who beat Russia in the preliminary round and Sweden in the quarterfinals four years ago, will be the No. 1 guy in net again if healthy. He has missed a couple of games recently for the St. Louis Blues because of an illness.

Here is the 25-man roster for Slovakia:

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