Czech Republic-Slovakia Preview
Slovakia captain Zdeno Chara isn't fretting over the team's disappointing showing in the preliminary round, instead choosing to focus on an opportunity to make a successful run in the elimination tournament.
The Czech Republic should have similar thoughts.
The Slovakians and Czechs face off in the qualifying round Tuesday looking to shake off stinging defeats as they battle for the right to face Team USA in the quarterfinals.
Slovakia finished group play winless after Sunday's 1-0 shootout loss to host Russia, scoring only two goals in the three defeats. It was a poor showing for a squad that entered the Olympics with medal aspirations, as it opened with a 7-1 rout at the hands of the Americans on Thursday before falling 3-1 to Olympic-newcomer Slovenia on Saturday.
Jan Laco, a backup in the Kontinental Hockey League, got the surprise start in net against the Russians over NHL goaltenders Peter Budaj of the Montreal Canadiens and Jaroslav Halak of the St. Louis Blues, making 36 saves through overtime.
Chara focused on the positives after the latest defeat and is looking forward to the 10th-seeded Slovaks' chances of advancing in the tournament. Detroit Red Wings forwards Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar have the team's only goals.
''I really thought we had good bounce-back after (Saturday's loss),'' said Chara, who also captains the Boston Bruins. ''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.''
No matter how far Slovakia advances, it will have to do so without the services of forward Tomas Kopecky, who will miss the rest of the Olympics with an upper-body injury. The Florida Panthers winger was hit in the head with an elbow against Slovenia and sat out Sunday.
Kopecky's aggressiveness will be missed against a Czech Republic squad that finished the preliminary round 1-2 after Saturday's 1-0 loss to Switzerland.
The seventh-seeded Czechs fell 4-2 to Sweden on Wednesday before beating Latvia by the same score Friday. Five-time Olympian Jaromir Jagr and Marek Zidlicky - both of the New Jersey Devils - each have two goals in the tournament.
Despite a strong third-period push Saturday led by Jagr, the Czechs couldn't beat Swiss goaltender Jonas Hiller with any of their 26 shots on net. Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec made 25 saves in the loss.
''Both teams had their chances, but I think we had a little bit more,'' Pavelec said. ''Their goalie played really well, and we hit the post twice. I think they have a good defensive system and it is tough to play against them when they score a goal (early).''
Pavelec has stopped 43 of 46 shots in the tournament, and he'll likely get the nod in net against Slovakia. Halak could get the start for the Slovaks, though he gave up eight goals on 56 shots in the preliminary round.
The winner will face unbeaten Team USA in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
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