The Czech Republic is in tough.
After managing only a single victory in the preliminary round, the Czechs took advantage of a soft matchup to beat the Slovaks and move on to the quarters. The Czechs, led by future Hall-of-Famer Jaromir Jagr and versatile Hab Tomas Plekanec, topped the Slovaks 5-3 yesterday. They did so on the strength of two early goals, which they supplemented with a third toward the end of the first period. Slovakia made a valiant effort to come back, closing the deficit to 4-3 with eleven minutes to play, but the game was salted away when Plekanec put the puck into an empty net with less than a minute to go. Lacking significant depth, the Czechs are heavily reliant on their top line forwards and top pair defenders, leaving the questionable Ondrej Pavelec to contend with a dangerous American team when they are not on the ice.
Speaking of Team USA, the Americans have rolled through their three matches to date, fighting through the Russia Federation in between games that saw them demolish Slovakia and Slovenia, respectively. The United States boast a tournament best goal differential of plus 11, earned on the strength of a strong forward group and some good goaltending. The forward group is so strong that Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty has been relegated to something of an afterthought, losing out on ice time to the likes of superstars like Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel. If Pacioretty sees the ice this evening, he'll have the chance to feast on a soft Czech defence that includes his former teammate, Tomas Kaberle.
Jonathan Quick will get the start for the Americans, looking to push his team through to a likely date with Team Canada in the semis.
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.