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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

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

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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
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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

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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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