Anze Kopitar

PHT’s Pressing Olympic Questions: Do Austria, Norway, Latvia and Slovenia have a chance?


You know about the powerhouses of international hockey, the countries that will likely be battling for gold.

But what about the other guys? Y’know, countries many are chalking up as an automatic victories. Do Austria, Latvia, Norway or Slovenia have a chance to win a medal in Sochi?

To be blunt, probably not. But let’s take a look at what they have going for them — maybe there’s a Team USA in 1980 or Belarus in 2002 in the bunch.


Led by New York Islanders forward Thomas Vanek — the captain of the team — and Islanders teammate Michael Grabner as the two big guns offensively. Joining them is Philadelphia Flyers forward Michael Raffl (and his brother Thomas) as well as former NHLers Thomas Pock and Andreas Nodl, a late addition to the team.

Austria is in Group B with Canada, Finland, and Norway, and Vanek is realistic about what it’ll take to manufacture an upset over the first two in the preliminary stage.

“It’s tough,” he said, per “I don’t want to put any pressure on our goaltending, but it comes down to goaltending. I think anytime you can have a goalie that’s hot and can give you 50, 55 saves, maybe you can get a few odd-man rushes and capitalize on them.

“That’s why you play the game. It’s a one-game shot.”


New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello is the only NHL player on the roster, meaning the Norwegians — fan favorites from the ’10 Vancouver Olympics — will have yet another uphill battle in Sochi. Aside from having to deal with Canada and Finland in Group B, Norway won’t have decorated international veteran Tore Vikingstad to help lead the way, as he retired in 2013.

Norway will have to keep opponents off the board, and it does have some quality blueliners to aid in that cause. Ex-Colorado Avalanche defenseman Jonas Holos and Ole-Kristian Tollefson — who played for Detroit, Columbus and Philadelphia — stand out as leaders on defense.


Latvia and their wild fans will storm into Sochi looking to surprise in Group C. The team is led by Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan and features a roster filled with faces new and old. Among the old guys is former Sharks and Avalanche defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh — at 41, he’s the elder statesman and a guy Nolan credits for getting Latvia into the Olympics.

Ozolinsh is joined on defense by former Flyer Oskars Bartulis, former Jet Arturs Kulda, and current NCAA Bowling Green prospect Ralfs Freibergs. The Latvians also have a semi-familiar group up front with Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons, ex-Ottawa/Boston shootout specialist Kaspars Daugavins and former Lightning forward Martins Karsums.

Latvia is looking up the pecking order at group mates Sweden, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, but boasts the most talent of the four minnows mentioned here. Nolan figures if they play hard enough and get some bounces, the Latvians could surprise.

“We took Finland to overtime at the world championships last year,” he said, per “We’re a hardworking team. And now they’re starting to believe. And that’s a deadly combination once in a while.”


The Slovenians are a Kopitar family affair. The team is led by Kings superstar Anze and his father, Matjaz, is the coach. Somehow Anze’s brother Gasper didn’t make the team… which could make the Kopitar family Christmas a little awkward.

As for the rest of the team, you might know former Red Wings prospect Jan Mursak and you’ll get to know a handful of guys with fun names, like the Rodman brothers (David and Marcel), Rok Ticar, Ales Music, and Ziga Pance. They’re all forwards, so for entertainment sake let’s hope they can score in bunches.

As for the outlook? Well, simply qualifying for the Olympics was a huge victory for Slovenia. From the New York Times:

Slovenia, known for Alpine skiers and ski jumpers, has a pool of hockey talent that is shallower than a puddle. A country of roughly two million, it has seven rinks and 148 registered senior men’s players.

“Out of those 148 players, you can maybe pick out 40 players good enough to compete at a high level,” Anze Kopitar said in a recent interview at the Kings’ practice complex.

“And 40 is actually stretching it, so it is a miracle, I think, what we’ve done to be in the Olympics.”

Alumni rosters announced for Bruins-Habs at Gillette Stadium

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The Winter Classic Alumni Game is back this year, scheduled for New Year’s Eve at Gillette Stadium between former members of the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins.

Today, the NHL announced the rosters and coaching staffs.

Famous ex-Habs that will take to the outdoor ice include Larry Robinson, Guy Carbonneau, and Mats Naslund. Behind the bench will be Yvan Cournoyer, Jacques Demers and Guy Lafleur, among others.

The home side will counter with Bruins legends Ray Bourque, Cam Neely, and “Nifty” Rick Middleton, while Don Cherry, Mike Milbury, and Derek Sanderson will be among the coaches. (Quite a trio of personalities right there.)

Here are the full rosters:


NBCSN will broadcast the alumni game nationally in the United States, while Sportsnet and TVA Sports will have it in Canada.

The 2016 Winter Classic will be played the next day (on NBC).

Goalie nods: Andersen’s ‘flu-like symptoms’ mean Khudobin starts versus Flames

Anton Khudobin, Frederik Andersen
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With Frederik Andersen experiencing “flu-like symptoms” (PHT diagnosis: it might be the flu), the Anaheim Ducks will turn to backup Anton Khudobin for tonight’s home game versus Calgary.

Khudobin could, in turn, be backed up by Josh Gibson, recalled today from AHL San Diego. The Ducks have officially listed Andersen as “questionable.”

Khudobin (3-3-0, .917) has not started a game in over a week. His last action came exactly a week ago, after Andersen got the hook versus Nashville.

Andersen may or may not travel with the Ducks for tomorrow’s game at Arizona.

The Ducks, of course, are coming off a 5-0 loss to Tampa Bay, a result that produced the following quote from Ryan Kesler:

After a four-game winning streak to start November, Anaheim has since dropped five of its last seven.

Karri Ramo will be in net for the Flames. After a terrible start to the season, he’s been much better lately, allowing just eight goals combined in his last four starts.


Craig Anderson for the Senators. Antti Niemi for the Stars.

Torts: Jackets still need more ‘bite’

John Tortorella

The hope was that the Columbus Blue Jackets would be jolted into a great, long winning streak, and their season would be saved.

The reality of John Tortorella’s first month behind the bench has been, well, reality. The Jackets are 8-7-0 since Todd Richards was fired. Better than 0-7-0, sure, but at 8-14-0 overall, they remain last in the Eastern Conference.

Fifteen games in, Tortorella is still trying to get his message across.

“A big reason why we bring them in (to practice yesterday and today) is because we don’t have a full understanding of the standard we need to be at in all areas of the game,” he told The Columbus Dispatch. “Some things you can’t control in our game, but it’s how hard you play, how hard you are with your bite as a team, and the pace you play with – you can control that.”

The Jackets play Wednesday in New Jersey, where they’ll look to shake off Sunday’s disappointing home loss to San Jose. Columbus held a 3-1 third-period lead in that one. The Sharks scored four straight to win 5-3.


— The Canucks need ‘more bite’

The Rangers are better when they have ‘more bite’

Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer


The San Jose Sharks have signed forward Dainius Zubrus to a one-year, two way contract, the club announced today.

Zubrus was given a tryout with the Sharks last week.

The 37-year-old played 74 games with the Devils last season, scoring just four goals with six assists. His contract was then bought out.

According to a Mercury News source, the decision to sign Zubrus lay “mainly” with his former coach in New Jersey, now San Jose’s bench boss, Pete DeBoer.

“He looks good,” DeBoer said of Zubrus last week, per CSN Bay Area. “He looks close. It’s tough to find six-foot-four, 215-pound guys who can play. … He’s an easy guy to play because he’s defensively reliable. He plays a big possession, heavy game. There’s a lot to like there.”

In a related move, the Sharks have reassigned forward Nikolay Goldobin to the AHL.

Related: Where’s the depth in San Jose?