Thursday, April 7, 2011

National team gets reinforcements from Slavia, goes to Belarus this weekend

After winning both games last weekend in Gjøvik, Norway by 2-1 scores, Václav Jáchim of is reporting that the Czech national team has made a few additions for this weekend's games in Belarus.

Jakub Štěpánek has been added to the roster of the Czech
national team. Photo:
The biggest addition is goaltender Jakub Štěpánek of SKA St. Petersburg. Štěpánek has been a mainstay on the national team all season and is a strong bet to make the World Championship roster, though not likely as the starter. Jakub Kovář of Mountfield České Budějovice played well in both games in Norway, by all accounts. Tomáš Pöpperle of Sparta Praha, who backed up Kovář both games in Norway, won't be making the trip this time, and his ride with the national team is likely finished.

There have been four new additions to the team from Slavia Praha, who were eliminated from the Extraliga playoffs last Friday. Defenceman Vladimír Roth will be going to Belarus, as will forwards Tomáš Pospíšil, Tomáš Svoboda, and Michal Vondrka.

Karel Rachůnek of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl won't be with the team this weekend, but he will join the team in Prague on Tuesday. Teammate Josef Vašiček's status is still up in the air due to a back injury. 

With Sunday being the final day of the NHL season, there will soon be more recruits coming. Presently, it is unknown if any NHLers will join the team quickly enough to play in the pair of games in Litvínov against Switzerland April 15 and 16. Probably the most anticipated addition would be goaltender Tomáš Vokoun of the Florida Panthers, who backstopped the team to last year's championship. With Florida out of the playoffs, he has indicated interested in competing again this year. Marek Židlický, Patrik Eliáš, Martin Havlát and Milan Michálek are among other expected additions.

Martin Růžička, who is currently playing for Oceláři Třinec in the Czech Extraliga finals, was a member of last year's team. Having established a new playoff scoring record this year, he will surely rejoin the national team once the series is over.

It has also been reported that Jaromír Jágr will play in the Czech Hockey Games April 21 to 24 in Brno, but it's not known if he will play at all with the national team before that.

Following the games in Litvínov and Brno, the Czechs will host Canada in their final pre-tournament game April 27 in Prague. They will then travel to Bratislava to begin defence of their championship April 30.

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