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Czech Republic battles Slovakia for quarterfinal berth

Tuesday, 02.18.2014 / 10:18 AM ET / News
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Czech Republic battles Slovakia for quarterfinal berth
Czech Republic battles Slovakia for quarterfinal berth

SLOVAKIA vs. CZECH REPUBLIC

When: Tuesday, Noon ET (NBCSN, CBC)

Where: Shayba Arena

What's at stake: A veteran Czech Republic team with high hopes entering the 2014 Sochi Olympics suddenly finds itself as the seventh seed in the qualification round. Their struggles, however, pale in comparison to Slovakia, which lost 7-1 to the United States, was on the losing end of Slovenia's first-ever Olympic victory, and finished winless in preliminary play. The winner moves on to the quarterfinals, and the loser will be eliminated from the tournament.

Slovakia: Off those disturbing losses to the U.S. and Slovenia, Slovakia turned to its third goalie, Jan Laco, over NHL players Jaroslav Halak and Peter Budaj. Laco nearly stole the game Sunday from Russia before falling 1-0 in a shootout.

"[Laco] was amazing. He kept us in the game," defenseman Andrej Meszaros said. "We had some chances, but we helped him too defensively. That's what teams do. The goalie helps us, and we help the goalie."

The backup to former NHL goalie Michael Leighton with Donbass of the Kontinental Hockey League, Laco made 36 saves, 15 in the third period, to help force Russia into a qualifying-round game against Norway while boosting the Slovaks’ confidence.

"I really thought we had good bounce-back after [Saturday against Slovenia]," captain Zdeno Chara said. "We just have to build on that and get ready for our next opponent. You always have a chance in this tournament no matter what you do in your first games. You can still move along if you win that do-or-die game. We have to get ready for that."

Czech Republic: A 1-0 loss to Switzerland on Saturday left the Czech Republic frustrated with its inability to solve goalie Jonas Hiller. Led by Jaromir Jagr, who is playing in his fifth Olympics and scored a goal in each of the first two games in Sochi, the Czechs still feature plenty of offensive talent and hope to have forward Patrik Elias back from an illness.

"Both teams had their chances, but I think we had a little bit more," said Czech goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped 25 shots in defeat Saturday. "Their goalie played really well, and we hit the post twice. If you don't score a goal, you can't win. I think they have a good defensive system, and it is tough to play against them when they score a goal [early]."

What's next: The winner plays the United States in a quarterfinal game Wednesday at noon ET. The U.S. defeated Slovakia 7-1 in the preliminary-round opener for each team.

Jon Lane

SCHEDULE

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AWAY
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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Henrique 75 16 27 -6 43
M. Cammalleri 68 27 15 2 42
P. Elias 69 13 21 -20 34
S. Gomez 58 7 27 -10 34
S. Bernier 67 16 16 2 32
T. Zajac 74 11 14 -3 25
A. Larsson 64 3 21 2 24
A. Greene 82 3 19 1 22
E. Gelinas 61 6 13 -2 19
M. Ryder 47 6 13 -1 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 26 31 9 .925 2.26
K. Kinkaid 6 5 4 .915 2.59