Slovaks happy to avoid injuries
By CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun
Slovakia's Lubomir Visnovsky (left) fights for control of the puck with Russia's Sergei Samsonov during third period World Cup of Hockey exhibition action at the Corel Centre in Ottawa Sunday, August 29, 2004. (CP Photo/Jonathan Hayward)
A sparse crowd of about 4,000 at the Corel Centre last night took their pleasure where they could find it.
Mostly it was booing ex-Senator Alexei Yashin whenever the captain of the Russian national team touched the puck.
Or cheering every time he was hit by a member of the Slovakian squad during the 0-0 tie in the final World Cup warmup for both teams.
The crowd took particular glee in the second when Senators defenceman Zdeno Chara hit Yashin in front of the Slovakian bench and seconds later Senators winger Marian Hossa took the puck from him.
Other than that?
"A lot of vowels," said Team 1200 play-by-play man Dean Brown, "and not much action."
Russian goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov(24 shots) and Slovakian 'keeper Jan Lasak (35 shots) were each perfect on the night.
The Russians wound up 0-2 in pre-tournament games. The Slovakians were 0-1-2.
The Slovakians, who open the tournament Wednesday against Canada in Montreal, apparently got out of the game without any further injuries.
They have been hard hit since training camp started. The latest victim was veteran Peter Bondra, who had his thumb broken during a 2-2 tie with Canada on Saturday.
Bondra headed for Baltimore yesterday to consult a specialist. The only good news is the unrestricted free-agent winger is covered by insurance set up by the NHL and the NHL Players Association.
Bondra joins big centre Michal Handzus (torn biceps muscle) and defenceman Ivan Majesky (broken finger) on the outside looking in for the World Cup. Handzus was injured during an exhibition game before the Slovakians left Europe while Majesky was hurt in practice in Ottawa where the Slovakians have been staging their training camp.
The losses of two top forwards and arguably their second-best defenceman after Chara make things much more difficult for a Slovakian team which was already regarded as in tough in the North American pool along with Canada, the U.S. and Russia.
They were already without high-scoring star Ziggy Palffy, still recovering from shoulder surgery.
The good news is Richard Zednik of the Canadiens played last night for the first time as he comes back from hernia surgery.
"It's on my mind almost every day, every minute, trying to find a reason, to make some sense of it," " said Slovakian GM Peter Stastny. "It takes years for this to happen to one team and it's happened to us in a couple of weeks. Two or three fractures, a ruptured muscle, it's very weird. They are not hockey injuries. You expect a pulled groin. Two fractures? We've had so much bad luck in a short period of time."
Stastny said he still believes there is enough character and talent on his club to make it a contender in their pool.
"This is the first year we have had a dilemma when it comes to picking our team," said the Slovakian hockey legend. "At one time, anybody in the NHL could play on our team. Now we have over 30 players. Just because you're in the NHL doesn't mean you fit our team."