Photo Credit: Bruce Fedyck/USA TODAY Sports
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia –Fear not, Jets Nation. Though Marko Dano was injured in the second period of Slovakia’s 5-1 win over France and missed his team’s next game against Germany during preliminary-round play at the World Championship, the slick forward was back on the ice for Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Belarus.
At practice on Friday, Dano was in fine form as his team prepared for its next game against Canada.
“Every time I’m on the ice I’m trying to just have fun,” said Dano, “especially during practice. We had a day off yesterday so we were happy to come back on the ice and get some sweat going and just have some fun.”
When asked what caused him to be sidelined, Dano answered, “I had something in my leg. It’s getting better now and I’m feeling better, so I’m going to be in the lineup against Canada.”
This year’s World Championship is Dano’s third, following appearances in 2013 and 2015. So far, he has tallied one assist in three games.
After the Slovaks failed to reach the medal round in 2014 or 2015, former coach Vladimir Vujtek has been replaced behind the bench this year by 46-year-old Zdeno Ciger, who was part of the first wave of Eastern Europeans to enter the NHL.
“He was a successful hockey player, so he knows how we’re feeling out there, said Dano of Ciger, who scored 94 goals and 228 points in 352 NHL games between 1990 and 2002. “It’s a little different because he can see the things on the ice in a different way than a coach that never played on that level like him, so at some point it’s good for us.”
Heading into Saturday’s game against Canada, Slovakia is on the bubble once again with a 2-0-0-2 record, one point behind Germany in fifth place in Group B.
“It’s not the best scenario for us,” admitted Dano, whose team will also face Finland and the U.S. before the preliminary round concludes on Tuesday. “The chances are there every time. It’s just about us—how we’re going to get ready for the game and how we’re going to compete and how we’re going to execute. Just gotta play our best game and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
Like many of the players here in St. Petersburg, the Slovak team is taking advantage of the warm weather to tour the city. “I played here once, but I didn’t get a chance to see the city” said the 21-year-old of his experience as part of Bratislava Slovan of the KHL, where he spent two seasons before coming to North America. “(Thursday), we had a day off so we went on the boat tour around the city. It was pretty cool, and it was nice weather outside, so finally I get to see a little bit from the culture and the history of the city.”
As for his experience since arriving in Winnipeg in February as part of the package received for Andrew Ladd? “It was a good time,” said Dano, who managed four goals and eight points in 21 games as a Jet. “We had a busy schedule so we played every other night—it was hard for everybody.
“The city? People there are so familiar and so nice and everybody lives for hockey, so for us as players it’s fun to play there. I’m looking forward to coming back next season.”