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 what will likely be an offensive barrage by the Americans.
Speaking of Team USA, the Americans have rolled through their three matches to date, fighting through the Russia Federation
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: Czech forward and New Jersey Devil Patrik Elias will not play today.
Puck drop is at 12:00pm EST, and youÂ can stream it live here. It is alsoÂ available in French. It will be on TV in Canada on CBC, on NBCSN in the United States.
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