Thursday, December 22, 2005

Red Wings to be well-represented at Olympics

Today, the Czech and Swedish national teams named their Olympic rosters, adding five more Detroit players to the list of athletes going to Turin to play hockey this coming February. Sweden Four of the Wings' seven Swedes will represent Sweden: Nicklas Lidstrom Henrik Zetterberg Mikael Samuelsson Niklas Kronwall Red Wing goalie prospect Stefan Liv was also named to the roster. Sweden's coach, Bengt-Ake Gustafsson, included Kronwall, who will be a first-time Olympian, despite his ongoing recovery from a torn ACL. The CP quotes him saying,
"He's been on ice and is back in training. The question is if he'll be ready for the Olympics. We have done this to avoid eliminating another player from the squad if Kronwall can play. If he can't play we'll pick another player."
Kronwall told the Free Press that,
"It's still too early to say. Hopefully in a couple of weeks It'll be able to practice with the team. I don't want to risk anything. The Olympics would be awesome, but I have to listen to the trainers.”
Lidstrom and Zetterberg have both played in the Olympics before. Lidstrom has participated three times and Zetterberg made his Olympic debut as one of two non-NHL players on the Swedish squad in 2002, the year before he came to Detroit. It will be the first time Samuelsson, whose strong performance for the Wings this season got him notice from his country, will go to the Games. Despite his value on the power play, Tomas Holmstrom will not have a chance to represent his country. The Free Press credits this to his skating skills, which are somewhat lacking. With the extra ice in international competition, Homer wouldn't be as effective. Czech Republic Robert Lang was named to the Czech roster today, the only Wing to be so honored (not surprising given he is the only active Czech player on the roster), though former-Red Wing Dominik Hasek will be one of the Czech goalies. It will be his fourth Olympic Games. He already has a bronze (1992) and a gold (1998) medal, though he wasn't so lucky at the 2002 Olympics. Jiri Fischer surely would have been named to the roster as well were it not for his current heart condition. Canada Team Canada announced its roster yesterday but only included one Red Wing: Kris Draper, despite his poor season offensively. It's surprising that they did not pick Draper's partner in crime, Kirk Maltby, to go as well but it is easy to see that the Canadians are going more for skill than anything else and Maltby would have just been taking up a slot that could have been given to a shooter. That said, it is also surprising that Brendan Shanahan did not make it. He is on pace to have a great year offensively and has been white hot lately. He would have brought some good leadership to the table and still has a great shot. He'll have to settle for his gold in 2002, apparently. His wife must be happy. Shanny had joked about her expecting to go somewhere warm during the NHL's Olympic Break. USA The first Red Wing players named to any Olympic roster were Chris Chelios and Mathieu Schneider, who will once again represent the United States. Chelios will play in his fifth Olympics and will be captain for the third time. Schneider played in Nagano, back in 1998 and was a lock for a spot this time around. One-time Red Wing Derian Hatcher will also patrol the blueline for the US. Russia They haven't released their roster yet but it is certain that Pavel Datsyuk will be named to Team Russia. On one hand, it's great that so many Wings will be able to represent their countries in the Olympics but I'm a little worried about the extra work their bodies will be getting heading into an important stretch of the NHL season. Beyond even the ususal wear and tear that accompanies playing high-level hockey, there is the increased chance for real injury. All of these men were named to their respective nation's rosters for a reason: they're very good players. They are also very important to the Wings and they can ill afford to lose any of them in the last leg of the season. It didn't seem to hurt in 2002 but that's not too reassuring. The upside to this is that we'll get to watch some very high-quality hockey and know that nine, probably ten, of our guys are a part of it. Update (23. Dec): The Russians have released their roster and it looks like youth will be the order of the day. The team will have 11 first-time Olympians, including Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. As expected, Pavel Datyuk was named to the team. Former-Red Wing Dmitri Bykov was as well and will be one of four non-NHLers on the squad.


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