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Slovakia forward Tomas Zaborsky (67) falls as Slovenia defenseman Sabahudin Kovacevic (86) moves the puck in the first period of a men's hockey game at Bolshoy Ice Dome during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Slovakia's Blackhawks having a tough time

SOCHI, Russia -- The Winter Games have not exactly gone as planned for Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus.

The Blackhawks' forwards were on the wrong end of history as Slovakia was upset by Slovenia 3-1 on Saturday at Bolshoy Ice Dome. It was Slovenia's first victory in the Olympics and dropped Slovakia to 0-2 in the preliminary round. The Slovaks face Russia on Sunday before the qualification round begins.

"It was a disappointing loss," Hossa said. "We definitely were looking for a better result, but it is what it is. We have to swallow this one, and we know (Sunday) is a really hard opponent."

Slovakia has been outscored 10-2 in losing efforts against the United States and Slovenia. Hossa, who has one assist in the tournament, didn't sound confident his team can get it together and do some damage in the elimination round.

"It's going to be hard," Hossa said. "It's hard to lose a game like this. But ... there is still one more game in the group, and you never know."

Added Handzus, who has yet to find the scoresheet: "We've got to play better hockey. (Slovenia) outplayed us, which is kind of surprising but they were better."

At the other of the spectrum is Sweden, which reeled off its third consecutive victory by dropping Latvia 5-3 on Saturday at Shayba Arena to win Group C. None of the three Hawks playing for Sweden -- defensemen Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson and center Marcus Kruger -- recorded a point.

"The positive thing is that we've won three games," Oduya said. "We've found a way to win, (but) we can play better than we have."

Despite the absences of several talented forwards because of injuries, the Swedes' confidence is high.

"We're one of those teams that can do it -- we're going for the gold," Oduya said. "Maybe a playoff round will wake us up a little bit."

The biggest loss has been that of Henrik Zetterberg, who withdrew from the tournament with a herniated disk in his back.

"He's our captain and a huge leader and a great player," Hjalmarsson said. "But we've got a lot of veteran presence around here, too, so I think some other guys have to step up a little bit now that Hank is not on the team."

Hjalmarsson said strong defense and quality goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist will be the key to going deep in the tournament.

"Our strength is the back end, and (Lundqvist) has been playing really well," Hjalmarsson said. "At the same time, I think we can play better defense overall. It's a huge adjustment coming to this big ice."

During the Czech Republic's 1-0 defeat at the hands of Switzerland on Saturday, Hawks blue liner Michal Rozsival dressed but never got off the bench. The Czechs dropped two of their three games in Group C.

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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SLOVAKIA


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