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Nine Rangers heading for '06 Winter Olympics

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Rangers left wing Ville Nieminen was named to the Finnish Olympic team on Feb. 1 as an injury replacement for Sami Kapanen, becoming the 10th Blueshirt to make an Olympic roster for the Torino Games.

Nieminen, a native of Tampere, will be playing in his second Olympics, after having been part of Team Finland at Salt Lake City in 2002. He also represented his country at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey tournament.

Nine other Rangers players were named to Olympic rosters back in December. The tournament takes place later this month from Feb. 15-26.

Darius Kasparaitis, Fedor Tyutin, Marcel Hossa, Jaromir Jagr, Henrik Lundqvist, Marek Malik, Martin Rucinsky and Martin Straka will also represent their respective countries. Only Colorado (11) has more players participating in the 2006 Turin Olympics. Philadelphia, Detroit and Ottawa each have nine.

Petr Prucha was also named to the Czech roster in December, but he will miss the Olympics due to a knee injury.

On defense for the Russian team, Kasparaitis, 33, will be making his fourth appearance in the Winter Games. The 5-11, 218-pound defenseman is a three-time Olympian, appearing with the Commonwealth of Independent States at the 1992 Olympic Games in Albertville, France and as part of the Russian Olympic squad at both the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan and the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. He captured the gold medal in 1992, the silver medal in 1998 and a bronze medal in 2002.

For his career, Kasparaitis has appeared in 20 Olympic matches, recording one goal and four assists, along with 12 penalty minutes. In addition to his Olympic experience, the Elektrenai, Lithuania native also participated in the 1996 and 2004 World Cups of Hockey, won a pair of medals at the World Junior Championships in 1991 (silver) and 1992 (gold) and skated in two World Hockey Championships (1992, 1996).

Tyutin, 22, will make his Olympic debut with the Russian team in Turin. At 6-2, 209 pounds. The Izhevsk, Russia native is currently tied for team lead in goals among defensemen (2) and is tied for fourth among all NHL rookies in game-winning goals (2). Internationally, Tyutin represented his country in the 2002 and 2003 World Junior Championships, helping Russia capture a gold medal in both.

Jagr, 33, will compete for the Czech Republic and will be making his third appearance in the Winter Games. The 6-3, 245-pound right wing participated in each of the last two Olympics (1998, 2002), helping the Czechs capture a gold medal in 1998 in Nagano, Japan. For his career, Jagr has appeared in 10 Olympic matches, recording three goals and seven assists, along with six penalty minutes. In addition to his Olympic experience, Jagr has represented his country in several other international competitions, including four World Championships (1994, 2002, 2004, 2005) and two World Cups (1996, 2004).

Malik, 30, will make his first Olympic appearance for the Czech Republic. At 6-6, 245 pounds, Malik has appeared in 34 games with New York this season, totaling one goal and seven assists, along with 38 penalty minutes. The Ostrava, Czech Republic native also represented his country in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

Rucinsky, 34, will be returning for his third Winter Games as a member of the Czech team. In 10 games of Olympic competition, Rucinsky has recorded three goals and four assists, helping his country win the gold in 1998. Despite missing 15 games with an MCL sprain, the Most, Czech republic native has registered eight goals and 13 assists in 20 matches with the Rangers this season. In addition to his experience at the Winter Games, Rucinsky skated with the Czech team at the World Championships in 1994 (four points in six games), 1999 (10 points in 12 games) and 2000 (six points in nine games), the 1996 World Cup, 1991 Canada Cup and the 1991 World Junior Championships.

Straka, 33, will be making his second Olympic appearance for the Czechs. The 5-9, 174-pounder skated in six contests in the 1998 Nagano Games, recording one goal and two assists en route to the gold. Straka's international experience, aside from the Olympics, includes appearances in three World Hockey Championships (2003, 2004, 2005), two World Cups (1996, 2004) and the 1991 World Junior Championships.

Lundqvist, 23, is making his first appearance in the Olympics for Sweden. Internationally, Lundqvist has represented his country on several occasions. As a member of Team Sweden at the 2004 World Championships, he backstopped the club to a silver medal finish. In the tournament, he appeared in all eight contests, posting a 5-1-2 record, along with a 1.64 goals against average and a .925 save percentage.

Following the 2004 World Championships, he was named to the Media All-Star team, as well as one of Sweden's top three players for the tournament. He also represented his country at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and two other World Championships (2003, 2005). In addition, Lundqvist participated in the 2000 (U-18), 2001 and 2002 World Junior Championships.

Hossa, 24, will be making his first Olympic appearance with the Slovakian National team. The 6-3, 220-pounder currently ranks fourth on the team with a plus-six rating. Internationally, Hossa has skated for his native Slovakia in several tournaments, including the 2000 and 2001 World Junior Championships. Most recently, he wore his country's colors in the 2005 World Championships in Austria, appearing in two games for Slovakia.
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