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Latvia poses tough challenge for Czechs

Tuesday, 02.23.2010 / 12:27 PM ET / News
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Latvia poses tough challenge for Czechs
LATVIA (0-0-0-3, 0 points) vs. CZECH REPUBLIC (2-0-0-1, 6 points)

What to watch -- This is no classic No. 5 vs. No. 12 showdown. The Latvians have been outscored 19-4 in the preliminary round, but they played the Czechs tougher than either of their other two opponents. These teams met five days ago and the Czechs walked away with a 5-2 win. As a result, the Czechs not only garnered a valuable three points for seeding purposes, but also an appreciation for how dangerous this Latvian team can be, despite the fact it finished last among the 12-team field.

"Tomorrow we need to not take the other team lightly, they are good players," Czech goalie Tomas Vokoun said. "We need to be prepared to play our best game." With that being said, if the Czechs show up and bring the same type of game with which they opened the tournament with a win against Slovakia, this should be nothing more than a tune-up for Wednesday's quarterfinal with Finland.

Last game: Latvia lost to Slovakia, 6-0; Czech Republic was defeated by Russia, 4-2.

Team Reports:

Latvia -- The Latvians know that the odds are long for them to earn their first victory of the tournament against the Czechs on Tuesday, but that won't stop them from trying.

"It's simple for us," goalie Edgars Masalskis said Monday. "We have to survive the first minute of the game and we have to survive the first period. There's no other math than that."

In order to survive, the Latvians will have to tighten up their defense, especially the penalty kill. Latvia has allowed 19 goals in three games and does not have the consistent firepower to erase a big lead.

"We have to play closer, and don't give them any space like we did in the first period," Philadelphia defenseman Oskars Bartulis said.

And, who knows? If the Latvians can keep this close into the final 20 minutes, maybe, just maybe, the Czechs begin to feel the pressure.

"Every team wants to win," Bartulis said. "The first three games we lost, but now we can change everything. That is what's interesting about this tournament."

Czech Republic -- For the Czech Republic, this game is all about execution and working on the flaws that were exposed in Sunday's Group B loss to Russia that cost the Czechs a chance at the automatic bye into the quarterfinals granted to the group champion.

"Tomorrow we need to not take the other team lightly, they are good players," said Tomas Vokoun, the Czech goalie. "We need to be prepared to play our best game."

There are three things the Czechs would like to work on in this game: generating a more efficient power play, playing a more controlled game in its own zone and showing some better finishing skill around the opposition's net.

"This playoff game is different from any other game and we changed the lines a little bit," Czech coach Vladimir Ruzicka said. "There are some changes in the offense. We've changed several players on the right side."

Total NHL players in game: Latvia: 2. Czech Republic: 16.

Puck Drop -- Nothing is a given and the Czech know that they can't get caught looking ahead to a matchup against the Finns in Wednesday's quarterfinal. To do so could have disastrous results.

"This is a team (Latvia) that has nothing to lose," Ruzicka said. "They will work hard and they are brave."

With that said, the Czechs would have to complete a colossal meltdown to fall to the bottom-seeded team and hope not to fall into too many bad habits if the game turns into the blowout that many believe it will become.

NHL.com predicts: Latvia has neither the defensive depth, nor the goaltending quality to have a true hope of springing the upset. They have been outscored by an average of more than five goals in its three preliminary games and the Czechs will become the latest team to get healthy at the expense of Latvia. A 6-1 scoreline should restore the Czech confidence in time for the quarterfinals.

SCHEDULE

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
K. Palmieri 82 30 27 3 57
A. Henrique 80 30 20 10 50
T. Zajac 74 14 28 3 42
M. Cammalleri 42 14 24 15 38
D. Severson 72 1 20 -8 21
R. Boucher 39 8 11 -13 19
D. Schlemko 67 6 13 -22 19
J. Moore 73 4 15 -12 19
A. Larsson 82 3 15 15 18
J. Blandisi 41 5 12 -14 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 27 25 6 .924 2.15
K. Kinkaid 9 9 1 .904 2.81
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