Slovakia announces Olympic lineup

Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik and Zdeno Chara highlight the twelve current NHL players selected to play for Team Slovakia at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Gaborik and Hossa will lead the offensive rush for Slovakia and provide most of their scoring power. Gaborik (pictured) currently leads all NHL players with 26 goals and is third in points with 49. Although Gaborik is enjoying one of his best seasons in terms of offensive production, injuries are always a concern for the 27-year-old right wing. Over the past five seasons, Gaborik has played in 70 or more games just once while only skating in 17 games with Minnesota last season. However, in those 17 games Gaborik managed to compile 23 points. Obviously, when he is healthy, Gaborik is an offensive threat on any given night.

90953146BB012_NY_PHOENIX_COHossa himself just returned to the Chicago Blackhawks’ lineup last month after off-season shoulder surgery. In 16 games with Chicago, Hossa has six goals and seven assists. In 74 games last season with the Detroit Red Wings, Hossa tallied 40 goals and added 31 helpers. In fact, Hossa has chipped in 30 or more goals seven times in his NHL career and twice hit the 29 goal mark. In addition to his offensive prowess, his work ethic and veteran presence will certainly help Team Slovakia.

Other notable forwards on the Slovakian roster include¬† Pavol Demitra, Tomas Kopecky, Richard Zednik, Michal Handzus and Marcel Hossa, Marian’s brother.

Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara headlines a strong group of defenseman that also includes Tampa Bay blue liner Andrej Meszaros and Edmonton defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky. Chara has twice contributed 50 or more points over the past three seasons and 40 or more points in each of his past five NHL seasons. The 6-foot-9-inch Boston defenseman is tough and gritty and knows how to throw his weight around making him a vital asset to the Slovakian roster.

Two NHL backups highlight the goaltending situation for Slovakia, one of which is Montreal Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak, who has been fighting teammate Carey Price for the starting job in Montreal for the better part of two seasons now. Halak currently has 10 wins in 16 games started with a 2.56 goals against average and a .924 save percentage. Peter Budaj, of the Colorado Avalanche, was the second NHL goaltender to be named to the roster. Budaj played for Slovakia in the 2006 Winter Olympics and posted a 2-1-0 record with a 2.01 goals against average during the tournament. Since then, his professional career in the NHL has been somewhat of a roller coaster. After a few rocky seasons as the starter in Colorado, Budaj found himself with the short straw this season playing backup to Craig Anderson. Regardless, Budaj has four wins in seven starts this season along with a 2.22 goals against average.

On an interesting note, forward Miroslav Satan was named to the Olympic roster despite not playing for a professional team this season. Satan, who played intermittedly for the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, also played for Team Slovakia in the 2006 Winter Olympics. The 35-year-old winger has twice scored 70 or more points in a season throughout his NHL career.

Even though Hossa and Gaborik are huge assets up front and Chara is an intimidating monster on the blue line, Slovakia might still have a tough time matching up to teams such as Russia, Sweden and Canada – all of whom will certainly foster more depth at all positions than Slovakia. The X-Factor here could be the 11 Slovakian players on the roster who play for other professional leagues. It might only take a hot hand from Halak or Budaj or some quick line chemistry and team synergy for Slovakia to break through to the medal rounds.

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