Sobotka named to Czech Republic roster -

Sobotka named to Czech Republic roster

(HockeySTL)-- Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka is headed to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Olympics. Sobotka was selected for the Czech Republic roster on Monday afternoon, and will be the fourth Blues player selected to compete in the 2014 Olympic Games.

Sobotka joins forwards David Backes and T.J. Oshie and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk on the list of Olympic Blues, which is expected to expand by Wednesday. Backes, Oshie and Shattenkirk are representing Team USA at the games.

This will be the first Olympic experience for the 26-year old Sobotka, who was drafted into the National Hockey League in 2005. However, the forward has appeared in international competitions with the Czech Republic team, including two World Junior Competitions. He had six goals, 12 points in those two competitions.

Teams in the Czech Republic were able to see Sobotka play several times last year as the forward spent the first half of the season playing for his old Czech Republic team. Sobotka played in 27 games with Slavia Praha in the Czech Republic while the NHL and NHLPA settled last year's labor dispute, which ate up half of the NHL’s season.

Sobotka, since joining the Blues in 2010, has been one of the team’s most consistent players. Until recent seasons, Sobotka had played mostly fourth-line minutes, but his responsible play with the puck and his versatile play allowed Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock to use him in other roles. This year, Sobotka has been playing consistent top-line minutes for the Blues.

“He’s such a responsible player; wherever he goes, he adds to that line," said Hitchcock last season. “He’s such a dependable player. He is so darn competitive, and has such a high level of intelligence on the ice. He gives a boost to everybody.”

Sobotka has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 35 games with the Blues this season. He missed several games with an upper-body injury earlier in the year, but the injury wasn’t too serious and did not sidetrack his play.

Aside from Sobotka, the Czech Republic team will boast 15 other NHL players. Blues defenseman Roman Polak, in a surprising turn of events, is not on the roster.

Polak, who is currently sidelined with a lower-body injury, was believed to be as close to a lock for the Czech Republic team as possible. Polak’s lower body injury is not expected to keep the defenseman sidelined much longer and he is expected back with the Blues before the Olympic break in February.

Polak represented the Czech Republic in 2010. He was one of three Blues players that year to attend the games in Vancouver. There are several head-scratchers on the Czech Republic roster, and Polak’s exclusion is one of them.

The Blues are expected to have as many as six other players selected for the 2014 Olympics. Team Canada will announce its team roster on Tuesday, which is expected to contain a couple of Blues players. 

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