SLAP SHOTS: Andrei Kovalev, an all star in the Deutsch Elite League, is Belarus’ offensive go to guy . . . Belarus, formerly of the Soviet Union, surprisingly made it to the quarterfinals and cheap authentic jerseys
finished seventh in its only Olympic showing in Nagano . . . 19 year veteran Oleg Mikulchik, brought up in the USSR hockey system, is the Belarussians leader . . . Belarus doesn’t have any NHL players . . . This will be the first ever Olympic action for Ukraine, whose athletes helped the Unified team win gold in 1992. Like Belarus, Ukraine was part of the Soviet hockey empire for all those years . . . Scoring might be a problem, but defense should be a strength for Ukraine. Veterans Yevgen Alipov and Oleg Sinkov bolster the blue line . . . Ukraine’s Andrei Sryubko was with Utah in 1999 2000.
SLAP SHOTS: Once Slovakia gets all of its NHL players, watch out, Slovakia could compete with the big boys. Kings star Zigmund Palffy and Senators’ Marian Hossa . . . Two former Utah Grizzlies Vladimir Orszagh and Rastislav Pavlikovsky Slovakia . . . . As an independent nation, Slovakia has been in two Winter Games (10th in 1998 and sixth in ’94) . . . Slovakian D Zdeno Chara, who stands 6 foot 9, is the biggest player in Olympic history . . . If and when it gets its three NHL players Capitals’ standout goalie Olaf Kolzig and Oilers’ Jochen Hecht and Sharks’ Marco Strum Germany could give plenty of teams a scare . . . Jan Benda is Germany’s top non NHL scorer . . . As one Germany, the country has been in 11 Olympic tourneys, going 24 44 5 with a bronze medal in 1932.
SLAP SHOTS: Austria has competed in 11 Olympic tournaments (13 42 7 record) with a best ever fifth place finish in 1928 . . . Austria was 0 2 2 for 14th at Nagano . . . Utah Grizzlies defenseman Andre Lakos is on the Austrian team, which has no NHLers . . . Two Christophs Koenig and Brandner are top offensive threats, while goalie Claus Dalpiaz has been a member of 13 Austrian national teams . This will be the third Olympics for Latvia, which competed in 1994 and ’36 . . . . Latvia’s speedy forwards Artis Abols and Aleksandrs Belavskis are lethal playmakers . . . Another former Grizz player, Viktors Ignatjevs, is a defensive force . . . Latvia will be boosted when Carolina Hurricanes goalie Arturs Irbe can join the team . . . Latvia won the Final Qualification Tournament last year in Klagenfurt, Austria to qualify for these Winter Games.
SLAP SHOTS: Switzerland is playing in the Olympics for the first time in a decade (last in Albertville, 1992). The Swiss won bronze medals in 1928 and ’48 and are 22 39 3 in Olympic action . . . . Having NHL goalie David Aebischer, Patrick Roy’s backup, for the entire run will be a huge plus for Switzerland. The Colorado Avalanche allowed him to come a week before the league let its other players participate . . . Swiss defenseman Mark Streit played for the Grizzlies in 1999 2000 . . . The French took 11th in Nagano, scoring five goals in each of their victories but getting shut out in their two losses. Overall, France is 10 29 1 and has finished as high as fifth twice (1920 and ’24) in the Olympics . Offense is France’s strength, though the team boasts no NHL guys . . . Scoring threats are Anthony Mortas, Richard Aimonetto, Stephane Barin and Philippe Bozon . . . French goalie Cristobal Huet was the Swiss National League goalie of the year the past two seasons.