The Czech Republic and Latvia met twice during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Tomas Plekanec and the Czechs won the first meeting 5-2, but required an overtime goal by David Krejci to secure a 3-2 victory during the qualification round.
After allowing four straight goals to Sweden in their opener, the Czech Republic will look to carry over their play during the second half of that game that saw them score twice. New Jersey Devils teammates Marek Zidlicky and Jaromir Jagr potted the Czech's only goals.
Captain Plekanec picked up an assist and played a key role on Jagr's goal when he checked defenseman Niklas Kronwall into Henrik Lundqvist. It's the kind of net presence you hope to see more of from Plekanec in Montreal, and strengthens the case for the Habs to add the ageless Jagr at the NHL trade deadline, or as a UFA this off-season.
Goaltender Jakub Kovar was yanked after allowing three goals on 10 shots. His replacement, Alexander Salak, played better but the team was unable to complete the rally for a victory. Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec is expected to get his first start against Latvia.
The Latvians suffered a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to a stingy Switzerland team. Netminder Edgars Masalskis stopped an astounding 38 of 39 shots he faced against the Swiss, but was beaten with just eight seconds left on the clock.
Goal scoring remains Latvia's biggest weakness, but maybe former NHLer Sandis Ozolinsh can help in that department. One player to watch from Latvia is Buffalo Sabres rookie Zemgus Girgensons. The 20-year-old has five goals and 17 points through 56 games this season.
Czech Republic projected lineup:
Roman Cervenka - Tomas Plekanec - Jaromir Jagr
Ondrej Palat - David Krejci - Jakub Voracek
Patrik Elias - Petr Nedved - Martin Erat
Milan Michalek - Jiri Novotny - Michael Frolik
Marek Zidlicky - Zbynek Michalek
Tomas Kaberle - Michael Rozsival
Michal Barinka - Lukas Krajicek
F Martin Hanzal
D Ladislav Smid
G Jakub Kovar
Defenseman Ladislav Smid did not play a shift for the Czechs in their game against Sweden even though he was dressed. It would be a safe bet that Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Gudas draws into the lineup in Smid's place. Gudas was held out of action against Sweden due to a fever.
Phoenix Coyotes scorer martin Hanzal would be a solid addition to the lineup as well, possibly in Ales Hemsky's spot. The fact that Hanzal was left out of the lineup in the first game was surprising.
Latvia projected lineup:
Lauris Darzins - Janis Sprukts - Mikelis Redlihs
Martins Karsums - Herberts Vasiljevs - Kaspars Daugavins
Ronalds Kenins - Zemgus Girgensons - Miks Indrasis
Martins Cipulis - Vitalijs Pavlovs - Juris Stals
Sandis Ozolinsh - Arvids Rekis
Arturs Kulda - Oskars Bartulis
Kristaps Sotnieks - Georgijs Pujacs
Ralfs Freibergs - Krisjanis Redlihs
F Armands Berzins
F Jass Koba
G Ervins Mustukovs
The Latvians dressed eight defensemen in their first game of the tournament and may do so again. Look for forward Armands Berzins to draw into the lineup if the forward lines are going to be shaken up.
Puck drop is at 3:00am EST, and you can stream it live here.
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