Only 24 hours removed from their qualification round win over Norway, the host Russians will meet a greater challenge this morning.
The more rested Finns have lived up to their billing as a contender in this tournament, crushing opening round opponents Norway and Austria before battling Team Canada to a hard fought overtime loss. After Tuukka Rask gave up four goals in the tournament-opening warm-up against the Austrians (Finland scored eight), he responded with a much better effort against the Canadians. The Finns were heavily outchanced in that game, but Rask relented only once in regulation. To the joy of Canada's legion of fans, Rask would eventually yield the dagger when Drew Doughty put home an overtime wrister.
While Kari Lehtonen provides a strong secondary option, look for Rask to get the start against Russia.
The Russians have faced a different path to this game, becoming the only member of the tournament's group of presumed contenders to be forced to play their way into the quarterfinals. Russia essentially lost the possibility of a bye when they surrendered a 3-2 loss to the United States. Managing only eight goals, which is a little over half of the total amassed by the United States facing the same competition, Russia has yet to fulfill its promise of becoming an offensive juggernaut. However, if the beyond deadly top six wakes up, the Olympic hosts could be a force to be reckoned with.
While both members of the Russian goaltending tandem of Sergei Bobrovsky and Semyon Varlamov have played the same number of minutes so far, the Blue Jackets' Vezina Trophy winner (and the best cop on the force) Bobrovsky has been entrusted with the difficult USA game and the elimination game against Norway. Earning a shutout in the latter match, and keeping the States to only two goals against makes Bobrovsky a strong bet for this morning's starter.
The winner of this game will face the winner of this morning's Sweden-Slovenia contest in the quarter-finals. The loser is eliminated from the tournament.
Puck drop is at 7:30am EST, and you can stream it live here. It is also available in French. It will be on TV in Canada on CBC, on NBCSN in the United States.
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