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Czechs try to avoid trap game vs. Latvia

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:50 AM

John Dellapina - Staff Writer

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Czechs try to avoid trap game vs. Latvia
Czech Republic vs. Latvia

CZECH REPUBLIC (1-0-0-0) vs. LATVIA (0-0-0-1)

NOTE: Records are presented as three-point wins (regulation time), two-point wins (OT or shootout), one-point losses (OT or shootout), zero-point losses (regulation time).

What to watch -- This could be the ultimate trap game for the Czech Republic, as it is wedged between two traditional rivalry games - Wednesday's opener against Slovakia and Sunday's Group B heavyweight match vs. Russia.

It could, that is, if the Czechs had come out roaring in their opener and were feeling overconfident. But beating Slovakia 3-1 was as much of an escape as a triumph, as the Czechs were outshot badly and outplayed for lengthy stretches.

The Czechs need to win Group B to avoid playing an extra game in the medal round - something that would be no favor to 38-year-old Jaromir Jagr. To do so, they need their game honed in time for meeting the Russians. It didn't look honed vs. the Slovaks.

If nothing else, the party will be on in the stands. The Czech and Latvian fans are among the most joyous here -- and while the mood of the Czech fans depends upon the performance of their team, the Latvian fans are here as much for the party as the games.

Team Reports:

Czech Republic -- Thanks to Jagr, who isn't even on their top line here, the Czechs survived an often discombobulated first-game performance in their 3-1 victory over Slovakia.

While defenseman Tomas Kaberle of the Toronto Maple Leafs uncorked several bombs from the left point, the Czechs' power play was largely ineffectual on its first five tries. On its sixth, Jagr nudged a puck into the slot for Tomas Plekanec to poke home just two seconds before the second-period horn.

Moving Jagr onto the No. 1 power-play unit for that sixth try seemed to change the dynamic. Presumably, coach Vladimir Ruzicka will stick with that tactic against Latvia.

Unlike in Torino four years ago, when he unexpectedly was pressed into service when Dominik Hasek went down with an injury, Tomas Vokoun has had a long time to think about being the CzechRepublic's No. 1 goalie for this tournament. He had no trouble handling the responsibility, turning aside 34 of 35 shots Wednesday night.

"Honestly, when I go into every game, I don't want to give up any goals," Vokoun said. "So it doesn't change for me if I'm playing in the NHL for Florida or here. This is a little bit tougher because, if you have a bad game during the NHL season, there are many more coming and if you have a bad game here you could exit out of the tournament."

Latvia -- The Latvians have no medal hopes here. But they do have four chances to be giant-killers. Chance No. 1 didn't last very long - the lethal Russian attack struck early to take command of the Group B opener Tuesday night. Chance No. 2 comes against the Czechs.

At least the Latvians still figure to be focused on the tournament. After stunningly tying the United States in their Olympic opener at Torino four years ago, the Latvians were outscored 26-8 over their next four games - seemingly as hung over by the initial result as their delirious, cowbell-clanging fans.

Dallas Stars defenseman Karlis Skrastins, one of only two NHLers on the Latvian roster, said he would tell his teammates not to star-gaze but rather to believe they belong. That's easier said than done for Latvian players who have never attended an NHL game, no less played in one

Total NHL players on the rosters -- Czech Republic 16, Latvia 2 (Skrastins of the Dallas Stars and Oskars Bartulis of Philadelphia)

Puck drop -- "I don't think there really are any favorites because, playing together for just four days, it's hard to tell who are the best players and who are the best teams. On the other hand, it never hurts if you've got skilled, great players." -- Czech Republic forward Martin Havlat

Prediction -- Latvian goaltender Edgars Masalskis faced 45 Russian shots in Tuesday night's game. He could face just as many in this one as the Czechs press to get their game going. Figure on Jagr and Co. exerting their will early and often in a 7-3 victory.

Czech Republic
# Forwards Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
10 R. Cervenka 5'11" 201 12/10/1985 Praha, CZE
26 P. Elias NJD 6'1" 195 4/13/1976 Trebic, CZE
91 M. Erat WSH 6'0" 196 8/29/1981 Trebic, CZE
67 M. Frolik WPG 6'1" 198 2/17/1988 Kladno, CZE
11 M. Hanzal PHX 6'6" 230 2/20/1987 Pisek, CZE
83 A. Hemsky EDM 6'0" 185 8/13/1983 Pardubice, CZE
68 J. Jagr NJD 6'3" 230 2/15/1972 Kladno, CZE
46 D. Krejci BOS 6'0" 188 4/28/1986 Sternberk, CZE
9 M. Michalek OTT 6'2" 216 12/7/1984 Jindrichuv Hradec, CZE
93 P. Nedved 6'3" 196 12/9/1971 Liberec, CZE
12 J. Novotny 6'3" 204 8/12/1983 Pelhrimov, CZE
18 O. Palat TBL 5'11" 174 3/28/1991 Frydek Mistek, CZE
14 T. Plekanec MTL 5'11" 196 10/31/1982 Kladno, CZE
89 J. Voracek PHI 6'2" 214 8/15/1989 Kladno, CZE
# Defense Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
8 M. Barinka 6'3" 225 6/12/1984 Vyskov, CZE
3 R. Gudas TBL 6'0" 204 6/5/1990 Prague, CZE
7 T. Kaberle 6'1" 212 3/2/1978 Rakovnik, CZE
25 L. Krajicek 6'3" 205 3/11/1983 Prostejov, CZE
23 Z. Michalek PHX 6'2" 210 12/23/1982 Jindrichuv Hradec, CZE
32 M. Rozsival CHI 6'1" 212 9/3/1978 Vlasim, CZE
5 L. Smid CGY 6'3" 209 2/1/1986 Frydlant, CZE
2 M. Zidlicky NJD 5'11" 190 2/3/1977 Most, CZE
# Goalies Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
1 J. Kovar 6'0" 201 7/19/1988 Pisek, CZE
31 O. Pavelec WPG 6'3" 220 8/31/1987 Kladno, CZE
53 A. Salak 6'1" 190 1/5/1987 Strakonice, CZE
# Forwards Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
21 A. Berzins 6'3" 214 12/27/1983 Riga, LAT
47 M. Cipulis 5'11" 187 11/29/1980 Cesis, LAT
10 L. Darzins 6'3" 201 1/28/1985 Riga, LAT
16 K. Daugavins 6'1" 205 5/18/1988 Riga, LAT
28 Z. Girgensons BUF 6'1" 190 1/5/1994 Riga, LAT
70 M. Indrasis 6'3" 187 9/30/1990 Riga, LAT
51 K. Jass 6'0" 192 5/4/1990 Riga, LAT
15 M. Karsums 5'10" 194 2/26/1986 Riga, LAT
91 R. Kenins 6'0" 201 2/28/1991 Riga, LAT
79 V. Pavlovs 6'5" 216 6/17/1989 Riga, LAT
24 M. Redlihs 5'11" 179 7/1/1984 Riga, LAT
5 J. Sprukts 6'3" 225 1/31/1982 Riga, LAT
3 J. Stals 6'3" 207 4/8/1982 Riga, LAT
12 H. Vasiljevs 5'11" 185 5/23/1976 Riga, LAT
# Defense Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
37 O. Bartulis 6'3" 203 1/21/1987 Ogre, LAT
29 R. Freibergs 5'11" 192 5/17/1991 Riga, LAT
32 A. Kulda 6'2" 216 7/25/1988 Leipzig, GER
8 S. Ozolinsh 6'3" 214 8/3/1972 Sigulda, LAT
81 G. Pujacs 6'0" 216 6/11/1981 Riga, LAT
9 K. Redlihs 6'2" 205 1/15/1981 Riga, LAT
6 A. Rekis 5'11" 198 1/1/1979 Jurmala, LAT
11 K. Sotnieks 6'0" 192 1/29/1987 Riga, LAT
# Goalies Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
50 K. Gudlevskis 6'4" 190 7/31/1992 Aizkraukle, LAT
31 E. Masalskis 5'10" 187 3/31/1980 Riga, LAT
1 E. Mustukovs 6'0" 187 4/7/1984 Riga, LAT