Two Lightning players picked for Olympics
The first time Lightning defenseman Andrej Meszaros competed in the Olympics for Slovakia, in 2006, he was a wide-eyed, 20-year-old NHL rookie.
But after Meszaros learned he'd get another opportunity to play for his country — he was named Tuesday to the Slovakian team for the 2010 Olympics — he was just as excited for a second shot. Lightning prospect Martins Karsums, who is with AHL Norfolk, was selected for Latvia.
"I'm really happy and very honored," said Meszaros, 24. "It's always a pleasure for me to represent my country. Any time I get a chance to go, I'll go."
Meszaros played for Slovakia in the World Championships in 2004-2006, but some of his most memorable moments came in the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, when his underdog Slovaks beat Russia, the United States and Sweden before losing to the Czechs 3-1 in the quarterfinals. Meszaros, a Povazska Bystrica native, said one of the best parts was his family and friends got to watch him play.
"To play against those big stars there, beat USA and Russia … unbelievable," he said.
Team Slovakia includes the Blackhawks' Marian Hossa, the Rangers' Marian Gaborik and the Bruins' Zdeno Chara.
Lightning coach Rick Tocchet hopes the tournament will help Meszaros "elevate his game." He has eight points (three goals).
"We need more from him," Tocchet said. "Maybe this is a shot in the arm, 'Hey, I made the Olympic team. I've gotta be ready.' "
Joe Smith, Times staff writer