Zdeno Chara

Slovakia Olympic hockey team beset by key injuries

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For most of the 1990s, major hockey championships were decided among six nations — the U.S., Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic.

Slovakia bridged the gap with the turn of the century, making the quarterfinals of the 2006 Olympics and, in 2010, upsetting Sweden to reach the semifinals, where it put a scare into Canada.

It will be an outside medal threat in Sochi, leaning on goaltender Jaroslav Halak and defenseman Zdeno Chara while injuries may keep two NHL All-Stars at home.

Potent forward Marian Gaborik has a broken collarbone, and experienced defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky has been out since Oct. 19 with a concussion.

Both were named to the team but can be replaced by Feb. 12.

Olympic hockey rosters: U.S. | Canada | Russia | Sweden | Finland | Czech Republic | Slovakia | Switzerland | Latvia | Norway | Austria | Slovenia

A key member of the 2010 Olympic Team was NHL All-Star Pavol Demitra, who died a year later in the KHL Lokomotiv plane crash.

Here’s the full Slovakia roster:

Goalies
Peter Budaj — Montreal Canadiens
Jaroslav Halak — St. Louis Blues
Jan Laco

Defensemen
Zdeno Chara — Boston Bruins
Martin Marincin — Edmonton Oilers
Andrej Meszaros — Philadelphia Flyers
Andrej Sekera — Carolina Hurricanes
Lubomir Visnovsky — New York Islanders
Ivan Baranka
Dominik Granak
Michal Sersen

Forwards
Marian Gaborik — Columbus Blue Jackets
Michal Handzus — Chicago Blackhawks
Marian Hossa — Chicago Blackhawks
Tomas Jurco — Detroit Red Wings
Tomas Kopecky — Florida Panthers
Richard Panik — Tampa Bay Lightning
Tomas Tatar — Detroit Red Wings
Milan Bartovic — former NHL player
Marcel Hossa — former NHL player
Tomas Marcinko
Michel Miklik
Peter Olvecky
Tomas Surovy
Tomas Zaborsky

Mikaela Shiffrin plans to return next week

Mikaela Shiffrin
AP
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Mikaela Shiffrin plans to race the next World Cup slalom in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, next Monday, according to her social media.

Shiffrin, 20 and the reigning Olympic, World and World Cup slalom champion, has been out since suffering a right MCL tear and a bone fracture in a Dec. 12 warm-up crash.

Her timetable for a return this season has shifted in the last eight weeks.

The rescheduling of a canceled Jan. 31 slalom for next Monday changed her previous plans to return the final weekend of February.

“Our goal is to have her be really close to 100 percent, if not 100 percent [before competing],” said Shiffrin’s mother, Eileen, in an earlier Denver Post report. “We’ve heard all these horror stories about athletes who went back too soon and then sustained injuries that did end their careers.”

The World Cup season concludes March 20. There are four slaloms left on the calendar, and Shiffrin trails slalom standings leader Frida Hansdotter by 305 points.

A winner receives 100 points per victory, so Shiffrin could take her fourth straight World Cup season title, but it would all but require her to win all four remaining slaloms and for Hansdotter (and others) to struggle.

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Tony Parker plans to play in Olympic qualifying, Rio Games

Tony Parker
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Tony Parker said he plans to play in both Olympic qualifying in July and the Rio Games in August, according to L’Equipe.

Parker, 33, previously said he could miss the tournaments this summer, at least in part due to his wife’s pregnancy, according to French media.

Parker said his wife is due in late July, which would fall in between France’s Olympic qualifying tournament (July 4-10 in the Philippines) and the Rio Games (Aug. 6-21).

Parker led France at the 2012 Olympics with 15.7 points per game. The French lost two games in London, to the gold medalist U.S. in group play and silver medalist Spain in the quarterfinals.

Parker led all players with 19 points per game at 2013 EuroBasket, won by France.

In September, Parker and France fell in the EuroBasket semifinals to Spain in a winner-goes-to-Rio game.

The defeat forced France to a last-chance, winner-take-all, six-team Olympic qualifying tournament in the Philippines in July.

In the Philippines, France will face a field that includes Canada, which had nine NBA players on its roster (including Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins) at August’s FIBA Americas yet was stunned in a winner-goes-to-Rio game by Venezuela, which had zero NBA players.

France is likely to be without Chicago Bulls All-Star Joakim Noah this summer as he underwent season-ending left shoulder surgery in January and hasn’t played a major tournament for the national team since 2011 EuroBasket.

Other French NBA players include Charlotte Hornets swingman Nicolas Batum, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw and Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier.

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