Coming off a disappointing preliminary tournament, the Czech Republic (7th) and Slovakia (10th) are set to battle for a birth into the quarter-finals. The former countrymen and longtime rivals struggled in their respective opening matches.
The Czech Republic only managed to beat Latvia in prelim play, suffering losses at the hands of Sweden and Switzerland. Jaroslav Halak has been incredibly shaky, and their defensive prowess has been nowhere to be found.
James Mirtle from the Globe & Mail took a look at why the Czechs are struggling.
Slovakia fared even worse, losing to Slovenia, Russia, and the United States by a combined score of 11-2. However their last game versus Russia was an encouraging effort, pushing the host team to a shootout. They are plagued with an insanely low shooting percentage (2.5%), and no goals from star Marian Hossa.
Only Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tartar have managed to tickle the twine for Slovakia.
Jan Laco is expected to get the start for Slovakia, coming off his 36 save performance versus Russia. He usurped former Canadiens Jaroslav Halak, and current Habs back-up Peter Budaj. Halak was shelled in the game versus the US, and Budaj wasn't given much consideration as a starter, however it's clear that Laco did enough to earn the starter spot, despite not even being dressed for Slovakia's first two games. He's currently serving as the back-up to Michael Leighton for Donbass in the KHL.
The winner of this game will face the United States in the quarter-finals. The loser is eliminated from the tournament.
Update: Eternally underrated Czech forward Patrick Elias will not play today.
The Slovaks will play with 19 men, Baranka, Marcinko, and Kopecky are all injured.
Puck drop is at 12:00pm 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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