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Hossa-Handzus-Tatar line highlights Slovakia’s first Olympic practice

Feb 10, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT

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MarianHossa Getty Images

Undermanned Slovakia had its first practice in Sochi on Monday, and wasted no time getting Chicago sniper Marian Hossa onto one of its top lines.

Hossa skated with fellow Chicago forward Michal Handzus and Detroit’s Tomas Tatar, according to Slovak news outlet SITA (per Hokej.cz).

The line unites Hossa — the leading Slovak scorer in the NHL this season with 50 points in 55 games — with the 23-year-old Tatar, who has a career-high 13 goals and 24 points this season. Handzus, the oldest player on the Slovakian team, will center the two.

The other Slovak lines, per Hokej.cz:

Branko Radivojevic-Tomas Kopecky-Tomas Jurco/Peter Olvecky

Milan Bartovic-Tomas Surovy-Michel Miklik

Richard Panik-Tomas Marcinko-Marcel Hossa/Tomas Zaborsky

On defense, the team loaded up its top pairing with Boston captain Zdeno Chara and Carolina’s Andrej Sekera, who is enjoying a banner season for the ‘Canes. The other pairings were Andrej Meszaros-Ivan Baranka, Martin Marincin-Milan Jurcina and Tomas Starosta-Rene Vydardeny.

The Slovaks were dealt a pair of major blows leading up to Sochi, losing the services of Marian Gaborik (broken collarbone) and Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion). For a country with just 14 active NHLers, losing two as talented as Gaborik and Visnovsky really thins out the overall talent pool, and Slovakia has been forced to call up KHLers Radivojevic and Starosta as replacements.

Related: PHT’s Pressing Olympic Questions: Can Slovakia surprise again?

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