The Lynx will be playing their second consecutive Olympic Games. On Wednesday Slovenia faces the US, on Friday it plays against Russia, and on Saturday against Slovakia. Slovenia will later play at least one more game. With the absence of NHL players from the tournament, including Slovenia's Anže Kopitar, Slovenia’s best individual player will be the 30-year-old native of Maribor, Jan Muršak, who has also been named team captain.
The excellent forward, who moved this year from Russian side Torpedo to Swedish club Frölunda, will be one of the key men in Slovenia's attack. Muršak believes the Lynx can repeat their excellent performance from Sochi 2014, when they reached the quarter-finals. He says they will have to show their real game, and for certain other things to fall into place, for them to be able to write another nice Olympic story – this time on Korean ice in Pyeongchang.
The Olympic tournament is just behind the door. Are you prepared for the first match?
Yes, for now everything is in perfect order with nothing to complain about. The bigger arena is nice and the Olympic village is well organized. The smaller arena is also quite big, but we haven't been there yet. We'll become familiar with it on Wednesday during our morning skating session. I believe the ice will be the same as in the bigger arena and that we'll quickly adjust to it. With regards to the match itself, we'll have to give all we've got and play well for the entire 60 minutes. I do believe that we can surprise the Americans or at least successfully stand up to them. It's important that we start well. Perhaps we do have the most chances against the Slovaks, but first of all we have to focus on our own game and try play better at every match.
How well do you know your first opponents, the Americans? Some of them play in the Russian KHL league, but the team is a real mix of players. Who, according to you, are the tournament favourites? Most mentioned are Russia and Sweden - where you play now and used to play before.
Every team that's here has quality. Especially the Americans. These will be the first Olympics for many players and many will want to prove themselves. They’ll want to leave a good impression and win something. I think the matches here will be as difficult, or maybe even more difficult than if we had the NHL stars here. At the pre-match meeting I think we'll make it clear how the Americans play and how we'll have to play against them. A lot will depend on the current form. The Russians are the strongest on paper. The Swedes have great chemistry in the team. Many of the ice hockey players come from the KHL and Swedish leagues, so they should have no problems playing together. Of course, the Finns are also here, and they can be very dangerous. The same goes for the US, which has ice hockey players coming from the best European leagues. The Canadians also have a great number of excellent players. If they develop good team chemistry and play well as a team, they could be one of the main favourites of the tournament, alongside the Russians.
You left a great impression and thrilled with your plays in your Olympic debut. What does your quarter-final achievement from Sochi mean today? Is such a good result also a burden?
I think it motivates us more than being a burden. We know that on paper we're the weakest team in our group. But if we play like we know and everything falls into place, we can surprise some of our opponents and repeat Sochi. After a result like that, perhaps even the public expects more from us. It was the same at the World Championship. It's just the way it is. I hope we play well in all the game segments, in the attack and defense, and that our goalie has a good day when we most need it. That's how it was in Sochi. If we can repeat that, I think we can hope for similar success.
You say you have to give your maximum and that you'll be pleased if you play well. Have you set any result goals?
As for me, I'll be pleased if we just give our maximum in every match and that we show a real team spirit, that we fight and play that way the entire 60 minutes. I'd be pleased with that. Of course, our opponents have more quality. It will be difficult to influence some things. Only with a fighting spirit can you beat all your opponents. And our expectations here are, of course, higher. A repeat of Sochi would be remarkable. Perhaps even for ice hockey in general as a sport in Slovenia. I hope we can pull off something like that and raise the perception of ice hockey in our country.