by Phil Coffey - NHL.com
The Czech Republic, defending gold medal champs from the 1998 Winter Olympics, added five more NHL players to their roster for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Joining the roster are Rangers winger Radek Dvorak
, Jiri Hrdina of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Martin Skoula of the Colorado Avalanche, Jaroslav Spacek of the Chicago Blackhawks and Martin Havlat of the Ottawa Senators.
The Czechs were also forced to remove two injured NHL players from their roster. Both Martin Straka of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Petr Svoboda of the Tampa Bay Lightning will be unable to compete in Salt Lake City.
Straka suffered a broken leg earlier this season and Svoboda is still recovering from a sever concussion that forced him to miss much of last season and all of this season.
Svoboda, the veteran defenseman, scored the goal that clinched the gold medal in a 1-0 victory over Russia in Nagano.
Czech Republic coach Josef Augusta also added three club players from Europe. They are former NHL players Pavel Patera, a forward, who now plays for Omsk and Michal Sykora, a defenseman, now playing for Pardubice. The third club player is Petr Cajanek of Zlin.
Dvorak is a solid contributor for the Rangers on the wing. He joined New York midway through the 1999-00 season and became part of the successful "Czechmate” line with center Petr Nedved and left wing Jan Hlavac. In 35 games with the Florida Panthers and 46 with the Rangers that season, Dvorak had 50 points on 18 goals and 32 assists. Four of his goals that season came shorthanded. In the Czech League, Dvorak had 64 goals and 69 assists in only 73 games for Budejovice. Internationally, Dvorak played for the Czech Republic on the 1995 Czech squad that competed in the World Junior Championships.
Last season, Dvorak had 31 goals and 36 assists for the Rangers. Through 34 games this season, he has six goals and 14 assists.
Through 34 games this season, Hrdina has nine goals and eight assists for the Penguins. Hrdina was the Pens’ fourth-leading scorer in 1999-2000 with 46 points and was a sharp faceoff man, winning 53.7 percent of his draws. Last season, he had 15 goals and 28 assists for the Penguins.
Skoula, of the Stanley Cup champion Avalanche, has netted four goals and eight assists in 36 games so far this season. Skoula is a skilled two-way defenseman, who is poised under pressure. He was selected 17th overall by the Avalanche in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. Last season, Skoula had eight goals and 17 assists during the regular season and one goal and four assists as the Avs claimed the Stanley Cup. Being associated with the likes of Rob Blake, Adam Foote and Ray Bourque during his tenure with the Avalanche has given Skoula some very impressive resources to draw from as he enters his first Olympic competition.
Spacek has the ability to add some offensive punch to the Czech backline. He has five assists in 27 games for the Blackhawks this season, but his NHL history shows the ability to post points. Last season, he had five goals and 18 assists in 50 games for the Hawks and another two goals and an assist in 12 games with the Florida Panthers.
In 1998-99, Spacek’s first NHL season, he scored three goals and 12 assists and was a plus-15 for the Panthers. The 1999-2000 season was Spacek’s best to date in the NHL as he scored 10 goals and 26 assists for the Panthers.
Agility is Spacek's strongest talent, and he uses this ability to kill penalties and move the puck.
With 15 goals and 15 assists in 33 games for the Ottawa Senators, Martin Havlat is well on his way to surpassing the 19 goals and 23 assists he posted in 73 games as an Ottawa rookie last season. Just 20, the left winger has barely scratched the surface of his potential. A lover of hockey history, Havlat already has become a popular player in the community with his charitable work.
These additions round out a very strong Czech entry.
The Czech have tremendous depth in goal with Detroit’s Dominik Hasek, Calgary’s Roman Turek and Philadelphia’s Roman Cechmanek.
On defense, the Czechs have Roman Hamrlik of the New York Islanders, Tomas Kaberle of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pavel Kubina of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Richard Smehlik of the Buffalo Sabres and Spacek, Skoula and Sykora.
The forward units are equally as talented, led by Jaromir Jagr of the Washington Capitals, Milan Hejduk of the Avalanche, Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora of the New Jersey Devils, Jiri Dopita of the Philadelphia Flyers, Robert Lang of the Penguins, Robert Reichel of the Maple Leafs and Martin Rucinsky of the Dallas Stars. They are nor joined by Patera, Cajanek, Dvorak, Havlat, and Hrdina.
______________________________________For this complete story and much more visit nhl.com.