Generation gap: Ozolinsh, Girgensons lead Latvian Olympic roster

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No shortage of interesting plot lines from today’s Latvian Olympic team announcement.

Led by Buffalo Sabres head coach Ted Nolan, the Latvians named one of their most decorated international veterans — 41-year-old defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh — and a player many consider to be the future of Latvian hockey, 20-year-old Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons.

Ozolinsh, who appeared in nearly 900 NHL games with San Jose, Colorado, Carolina, Florida, Anaheim and the New York Rangers, was a star blueliner on the ’96 Avs team that won the Stanley Cup, leading all Colorado defensemen in scoring during the regular season and playoffs.

Now, almost 20 years later, Ozolinsh is still playing for Dinamo Riga of the KHL.

Girgensons, the highest-drafted Latvian in NHL history (14th overall, 2012), is in his first season with the Sabres. The gritty center has four goals and 14 points through 41 games this year, earning high praise from Nolan.

“The one thing you can’t teach somebody is to give them that work ethic that he has,” Nolan told the Buffalo News.

Aside from Ozolinsh and Girgensons, the Latvians will have a decent amount of NHL experience. Former Flyers d-man Oskars Bartilus was named to the team, as was former Winnipeg defenseman Arturs Kulda.

Up front, ex-Sens forward Kaspars Daugavins made the cut, as did former Lightning/Bruins winger Martins Karsums.

Here’s the roster in full, per TSN:

Goaltenders: Kristers Gudlevskis, Edgars Masalskis, Ervins Mustukovs.

Defence: Oskars Bartulis, Ralfs Freibergs, Arturs Kulda, Sandis Ozolinsh, Georgijs Pujacs, Krisjanis Redlihs, Arvids Rekis, Kristaps Sotnieks.

Forwards: Armands Berzins, Martins Cipulis, Lauris Darzins, Kaspars Daugavins, Zemgus Girgensons, Miks Indrasis, Koba Jass, Martins Karsums, Ronalds Kenins, Vitalijs Pavlovs, Mikelis Redlihs, Janis Sprukts, Juris Stals, Herberts Vasiljevs.