After their most important victory in the tournament to bring themselves to the quarter finals, Sochi's surprising Slovenes square of against a superior Swedish squad.
Slovenia has been the story of the tournament, managing two wins and playing surprisingly close hockey against a pair of elite teams in the United States and Russia. If they want to keep playing they must win a match against a third top team in Sweden.
The Slovenes embracing a supressingly agressive game for a minnow team, relying heavily on passing and correct positioning to make up the deficiet in individual skill. They also make up for it by playing their best two players, Anze Kopitar and Jan Mursak about 20 minutes a game. Expect an even higher number for those to in this critical match. Kopitar is one of the game's great two-way forwards and has shown his value carrying the Slovenes thus far. Kopitar has been on the ice for 3 even strength goals for and 0 against, as well as 3 power play goals and watching them will show he was involved in creating all of them even if he didn't record a point. If he can carry his team to the semi-finals, Kopitar will have a strong candidacy for tournament MVP.
The Swedish squad is much depleted compared to its theoretical lineup, missing top centers H. Sedin and Henrik Zetterberg. Despite that though, they have managed to place 1st after the round robin portion, with victories against the Czechs, Swiss and Latvians. Their star so far has been Erik Karlsson, who leads them in scoring and has been a catalyst of the offense both on ES and the powerplay. Erik Karlsson is expected to play with Alex Edler tonight, with Oliver Ekman-Larson demoted to the 7th lineup spot, with the Detroit and Chicago pairings remaining in place.
Steen-Berglund-Alfredsson is their top scoring line thus far and is expected to be followed by Sedin-Backstrom-Eriksson, Landeskog-Johnsson-Silverberg and Hagelin-Kruger-Ericsson, with Nyquist on the outside looking in on forward. Sweden tends to rid its top two forward lines hard in terms of minutes, but we may see less of that against the comparatively weaker Slovenes if the game is in hand.
Winner of the match gets to go to the medal round, facing either Finland or Russia next in the semi-finals.
Puck drop is at 3:00am 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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