• PRINT
  • RSS

Battling It Out In Sochi

Forwards Aleksander Barkov and Tomas Kopecky shed their Panthers sweaters for their country's all in hopes of winning gold at Sochi.

Tuesday, 02.11.2014 / 11:45 AM ET / News
By Glenn Odebralski  - FloridaPanthers.com
X
Share with your Friends


Battling It Out In Sochi

For Florida Panthers forwards Aleksander Barkov and Tomas Kopecky, the journey to claim Olympic Gold begins Thursday.

Barkov and Finland open up tournament play against Austria (3am ET, NBCSN) while Kopecky and Team Slovakia take the ice against Team USA a few hours later (7:30am ET, NBCSN).

Barkov will compete in his first Olympics (shockingly he did not make the team in 2010 as a 14-year-old) while it will be Kopecky’s second time wearing his country’s colors on the world stage at the Winter Games. Both are excited at the opportunity:

"Playing in Vancouver [in 2010] it was the first time actually for me to representing my country at the men's level," said Kopecky. "Maybe I'm more mature and wiser. I'm going to enjoy this as if it was my first Olympics.

For Barkov, who will reportedly play alongside his idol Teemu Selanne on Finland’s top line, this will be a true first. 

"I've never played [while] in the NHL for the national team," said the Flying Finn, who has represented Finland at two World Junior Championships. "It's a very big thing representing your country and representing Florida."

Last time around, Slovakia and Finland met in the bronze medal game. Slovakia held a 3-1 lead after two periods but Finland stormed back, scoring four goals in the third to earn a podium placement with a 5-4 victory. The loss still lingers with Kopecky.

"I still kind of think about it. It's not easy to get over. We played such a great tournament. To lose that game, it's such a bummer but I think it makes you an even better hockey player to kind of realize how tough it is to play. I still [haven’t gotten] over that game."

Should the two teams meet again – and it will have to be beyond the Group stage as the two countries are playing in different groups – each Panthers Olympian has already thought about what it will be like to compete against a familiar face.

"Me playing against him, we're on the same team right now but to compete against him it will be very fun," said Barkov. "I will get him. Do everything so he can't score."

"I'm going to try to strip the puck from him," said Kopecky. "Obviously he's my teammate here and he's a great kid, great competitor. I love those games. I love the games when we play the team I played for before or I'm playing the games where I know somebody on the other team. It's just a little extra challenge. Who doesn't like those challenges; it’s so it's fun."

While Barkov and Kopecky will focus on the task at hand of winning Olympic gold, the duo certainly want to catch some of the other events in Sochi.

"Not only hockey, there's great sportsmen there," said Barkov on what he was looking forward to most at the Winter Games.

"(I'm) excited to see other events as well, if we have time," said Kopecky. "It's good that you're not only focused on hockey, hockey, hockey, to get your mind off it a little bit between games or if we have days between, go see some other events."

But the pressure will be there to win gold for their country and they wouldn't want it any other way.

"We have very demanding fans and it should be like that. Why wouldn't they have high expectations for us and I think it's good for us," said Kopecky. "For a hockey player there's no better feeling that you know when the puck drops the whole country is watching. That's just something that pushes you forward. It drives you so hard. That's why those games are really high tempo. Aggression is really high. Everybody wants to win."

Concurred Barkov: "It's always a special feeling to wear my home country's jersey and to play the game that I love.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

 
FloridaPanthers.com is the official Web site of the Florida Panthers. Florida Panthers and floridapanthers.com are trademarks of the Florida Panthers Hockey Club, Ltd. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks and NHL Draft name and logo are trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2016 Florida Panthers Hockey Club, Ltd and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.