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Handzus, Mikus in Slovak Camp

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Michal Handzus is one of four Slovak players with 40-plus points a year ago.

All 18 Slovak nationals who appeared in at least one NHL game last season comprise half the roster named by the Slovak Ice Hockey Federation to participate in an Olympic Summer Camp in the city of Poprad from Aug. 4-8.

The tiny nation of 5.5 million people doesn't have a wealth of players from which to choose, but there should be enough firepower on offense and an abundance of size on defense to keep the Slovaks competitive at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

The majority of the non-NHL players come from the Russian Kontinental Hockey League with a few others from the top circuits in the Czech Republic and Switzerland.

"The camp will not only consist of on-ice practice but also on off-ice activities like mountain biking, tennis or golf. Diversified training is popular among our players," said coach Jan Filc. "Summer is the only appropriate time when we have the opportunity to communicate with our players that are overseas. In the coming days we will have a clearer idea about the roster for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games."

The players will gather for camp in the northern city of Poprad, which sits at the foot of the High Tatra mountains. The program also calls for an exhibition game against Slovak league champion HC Kosice on Friday.

The biggest name on the list is Marian Hossa of Chicago. But his recent surgery to repair a small tear in his right rotator cuff will prevent him from any activities. However, his spot on the roster is safe. Four years ago at the Torino Games, Hossa led Slovakia with 10 points (5 goals), one off the tournament lead.

The only other 20-goal scorer from 2008-09 is Vancouver Pavol Demitra, but at least six others recorded 13 goals, including Bruins defenseman and Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara (19).

Four players -- Hossa (71), Demitra (53), Chara (50) and Michal Handzus of Los Angeles (42) -- scored at least 40 points. Miroslav Satan, a veteran of international play, had a reduced role with the Penguins last season and is plenty capable in a short tournament. Winger Tomas Kopecky was buried on Detroit's depth chart but has joined Hossa in Chicago and should play a bigger role. Marek Svatos (Colorado), Lubomir Visnovsky (Edmonton) and Marian Gaborik (N.Y. Rangers) all battled injuries last season.

Only three players in camp appeared in Slovakia's top league last season -- goaltender Jan Lasak and forwards Tomas Tatar and Zigmund Palffy.

Palffy, who led the T-Com Extraliga in scoring with 52-47-99 in 53 games for Skalica last season, is now 37 and his participation was a big question mark until the roster announcement. He hasn't represented the Slovak national team since the 2005 World Championships. Palffy played for the New York Islanders, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh from 1993-94 through 2005-06, scoring 329 goals and 713 points in 684 NHL games.

The defense, anchored by Chara (6-9, 255), is formidable. Including the non-NHL players, the 11 invitees average 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds.

The goaltending is a bit suspect. Budaj and Halak are the best candidates to become the No. 1 or they may alternate starts. Budaj played in the 2006 Games and went 2-1 with a 2.01 GAA, but he's coming off a forgettable NHL campaign with the Avalanche and is now the backup to Craig Anderson. The inclusion of Jaroslav Janus was surprising. The 19-year-old went 25-20-4 with three shutouts, a 3.24 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage in 49 games for Erie of the Ontario Hockey League in 2008-09. He was selected by Tampa Bay in the sixth-round, No. 162, of the 2009 Entry Draft.

According to the IIHF, some of the invited players may not appear in Poprad. Peter Smrek, Ladislav Nagy and Richard Zednik have not been released from their Russian league teams, and Satan, Svatos, Milan Jurcina, Peter Sejna and Jozef Stumpel are not available due to other obligations.

The camp roster includes 10 players who represented Slovakia at the 2006 Games -- Budaj, Chara, Demitra, Gaborik, Marian Hossa, Jurcina, Andrej Meszaros, Satan, Svatos and Visnovsky.

Slovakia, which placed fifth at the Torino Games, its best showing in four Olympic tournaments since 1994, is currently ninth in the International Ice Hockey Federation's world rankings.

2010 Slovakia Olympic candidates

Goaltenders (4): Peter Budaj (Colorado), Jaroslav Halak (Montreal), Jaroslav Janus (Erie Otters, OHL), Jan Lasak (HC Moeller Pardubice)

Defensemen (11): Ivan Baranka (Spartak Moscow), Zdeno Chara (Boston), Milan Jurcina (Washington), Richard Lintner (Dynamo Minsk), Andrej Meszaros (Tampa Bay), Vladimir Mihalik (Tampa Bay), Jaroslav Obsut (Spartak Moscow), Andrej Sekera (Buffalo), Peter Smrek (Severstal Cherepovets), Boris Valabik (Atlanta), Lubomir Visnovsky (Edmonton)

Forwards (21): Lubos Bartecko (SC Bern), Martin Cibak (Spartak Moscow), Pavol Demitra (Vancouver), Marian Gaborik (NY Rangers), Michal Handzus (Los Angeles), Marcel Hossa (Dynamo Riga), Marian Hossa (Chicago), Juraj Kolnik (HC Geneve-Servette), Tomas Kopecky (Chicago), Juraj Mikus (Los Angeles), Ladislav Nagy (Severstal Cherepovets), Peter Olvecky (Nashville), Zigmund Palffy (HK 36 Skalica), Branko Radivojevic (Spartak Moscow), Stefan Ruzicka (Spartak Moscow), Miroslav Satan (free agent), Peter Sejna (ZSC Lions Zurich), Jozef Stumpel (Barys Astana), Marek Svatos (Colorado), Tomas Tatar (HKm Zvolen), Richard Zednik (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl)

Contact Rocky Bonanno at rbonanno@nhl.com.



Author: Rocky Bonanno | NHL.com Staff Writer

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