World Men's Championship News
PRAGUE – Marian Hossa, meet Rob Niedermayer.
Hossa is straw which stirs the drink offensively for the Slovaks. Niedermayer’s job will be to keep him in check.
“He’s one of the best at it,” said Hossa on Friday about his upcoming shadow.
Sweden plays the United States in Saturday’s other semifinal.
Of the four teams left in the 16-team tournament, the Slovaks have the most explosive offense. There’s Hossa and Marian Gaborik of the Minnesota Wild, Josef Stumpel of the Los Angeles Kings, Pavol Demitra of the St. Louis Blues, Miro Satan of the Buffalo Sabres and Zdeno Chara of the Senators.
Canadian coach Mike Babcock watched the Slovaks beat France 3-1 for the right to advance against Canada and he expects the semifinal to be much like an NHL game.
“That is the kind of game we were expecting,” said Babcock. “We will give our guys a simple little plan and then let the skill and the work ethic come to the table. The work ethic has to be the key.”
The Canadians know they can’t allow the Slovak transition game to get into gear.
“If we are on top of their defence, it’s hard to get that game going,” he said.
With the elimination of the Czechs, the Slovaks become the home team. The Slovaks and Czechs were one just over a decade ago when Czechoslovakia was a country but it split in the early 1990s.
The Slovaks won the world hockey championship a couple of years ago and Hossa says it would be huge if they won here, so close to his homeland.
He thinks the Czech fans will cheer his team in.
“We are not friends when we play with each other but when one is out, the older people will still cheer for the other country. Some Slovaks will cheer for the Czechs and some Czechs will be cheer for Slovaks.”
The game also features two of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy, Senators’ defenceman Zdeno Chara and Canada’s Rob Niedermayer.
Chara downplayed the match-up.
“It’s just another game,” he said.
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