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Czech star Rucinsky, 43, earns national team tryout

by Michael Langr / NHL.com

Former NHL forward Martin Rucinsky has been invited to the Czech Republic national team training camp and will play in two games against Russia in February.

Rucinsky, who turns 44 in March, could play for the Czechs in the 2015 IIHF World Championship this May in Prague, Czech Republic if the February games go well.

Still active in the Czech professional league, Rucinsky was invited to the tryout by national team coach Vladimir Ruzicka.

"The invitation to the national team is always an honor. And especially when I got the invitation from Vlada [Ruzicka], whom I never can say no," said Rucinsky, who hasn't represented the Czech Republic since the 2006 Turin Olympics, where he won a bronze medal.

He has a gold medal from the 1998 Nagano Olympics and three World Championship titles (1999, 2001 and 2005).

At the 1998 Olympics, Rucinsky played with Ruzicka, who was 34 at the time and thought by many Czech fans to be too old to play in such a high-level tournament. Now, Ruzicka is pushing the envelope much further by inviting his former teammate to represent the country despite being almost a decade older.

It is far from certain Rucinsky will play for the national team in the Worlds.

"I wouldn't make any conclusions out of my comeback," Rucinsky told Czech Daily Mlada Fronta DNES. "I'm going to play in these two games and see if I still can compete at the international level."

Rucinsky was selected by the Edmonton Oilers with the 20th pick of the 1991 NHL Draft. He spent 16 seasons in the League with the Oilers, Quebec Nordiques, Colorado Avalanche, Montreal Canadiens, Dallas Stars, New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues. He scored 241 goals and 612 points in 961 games.

He is third in scoring in the Czech Extraliga this season with 41 points in 41 games for HC Litvinov.

Rucinsky's comeback with the national team is further proof of the trend involving the longevity of Czech hockey stars who were successful in the NHL during the 1990s. Rucinsky's close friend Petr Nedved represented the Czech Republic at the 2014 Sochi Olympics when he was 42. New Jersey Devils forward Jaromir Jagr will turn 43 in February. Goaltender Dominik Hasek retired from hockey in 2012 after an NHL comeback attempt was unsuccessful. Hasek, who turns 50 on Thursday, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November.

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