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Slovakia's next test in Group B from upstart Latvia

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:50 AM

John Dellapina - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Slovakia's next test in Group B from upstart Latvia
Latvia vs. Slovakia
SLOVAKIA (1-0-0-1) vs. LATVIA (0-0-0-2)

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 --
The Czech Republic's victory over Latvia Friday precluded the possibility of Slovakia winning Group B. But the Slovaks remarkably can finish second in this toughest of the three round-robin pools by defeating Latvia and the Czechs topping the Russians Sunday afternoon.

That is a remarkable thing given that the Slovaks came into this tournament with their top two forwards banged up and then were given a rugged schedule -- three games in four nights with the first two back-to-back against the Czech Republic and Russia.

The Latvians have had their moments so far. And each of those moments has been boisterously cheered by the Latvian fans here and the countless others who are captivated by their enthusiasm.

But Latvia never had a chance among the heavyweights in Group B. And it now will look to ruin somebody's medal hopes by upsetting a power in the qualification games Tuesday for Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

Team Reports:

 
Slovakia -- Some grit, plenty of skill and a whole lot of Jaroslav Halak have the Slovakians right in the thick of the Group B competition.

They nearly upset their closest rivals, the Czechs, in their opening game. And they pulled off the stunner of the tournament so far by beating the Russians in a shootout Thursday night.

Halak sparkled in both games, turning aside 36 of 37 shots from the frighteningly talented Russians and then six of seven in the shootout – including two of three by Alex Ovechkin.

Marian Gaborik (lacerated leg) and Marian Hossa (concussion) both returned earlier than expected from injuries suffered last week in the NHL. And each has scored a goal. But neither could yet be described as flying.

Latvia -- It has gone just about as expected so far for the Latvians. Two powerful foes. Two predictable losses. Two games in which, though overmatched, they played with gusto and occasional flair.

Competitive through two periods against Russia in their Olympic opener, the Latvians were overwhelmed in the third period, when Russia strafed them for four goals.

The Czech game unfolded the opposite way. Blitzed early for three goals in the first 5:07, the Latvians battled back from a 4-0 deficit to within 4-2 before ultimately succumbing.

Goaltender Edgars Malaskis has faced 84 shots in two games. Yet, every time he appears to be mentally broken, he rallies to keep his team in the game a little longer.

Total NHL players in game --
15; the only Latvian NHLers are defensemen Karlis Skrastins of Dallas and Oskars Bartulis of Philadelphia. Though only five of the seven Slovak defensemen currently play in the NHL, all seven have at some point in their careers.
 
Puck Drop --
After back-to-back games vs. the Czech Republic and Russia, all the Slovaks needed Friday off. But none more than defenseman Zdeno Chara, who spent Thursday night matched against the dynamic Alex Ovechkin. Chara kept Ovechkin off the scoresheet. But Ovechkin pounded Chara physically.

Prediction -- Some anxious early moments for the Slovaks yield to a pull-away victory. Looking ahead to the qualification games, Latvia gets overrun late, 8-2.

Latvia
# 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
Slovakia
# Forwards Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
61 M. Bartovic 6'0" 194 4/9/1981 Trencin, SVK
26 M. Handzus CHI 6'5" 215 3/11/1977 Banska Bystrika, SVK
88 Marcel Hossa 6'2" 218 10/12/1981 Ilava, SVK
81 Marian Hossa CHI 6'1" 210 1/12/1979 Stará Lubovna, SVK
13 T. Jurco DET 6'2" 193 12/28/1992 Kosice, SVK
82 T. Kopecky FLA 6'3" 203 2/5/1982 Ilava, SVK
65 T. Marcinko 6'4" 207 4/11/1988 Poprad, SVK
91 M. Miklik 6'0" 198 7/31/1982 Piestany, SVK
85 P. Ölvecky 6'2" 214 10/11/1985 Nove Zamky, SVK
28 R. Panik TBL 6'1" 208 2/7/1991 Martin, SVK
92 B. Radivojevic 6'0" 207 11/24/1980 Piešťany, SVK
43 T. Surovy 6'1" 216 9/24/1981 Banska Bystrica, SVK
90 T. Tatar DET 5'10" 186 12/1/1990 Ilava, SVK
67 T. Zaborsky 5'11" 201 11/14/1987 Trencin, SVK
# Defense Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
7 I. Baranka 6'2" 203 5/19/1985 Ilava, SVK
33 Z. Chara BOS 6'9" 255 3/18/1977 Trencin, SVK
68 M. Jurcina 6'4" 251 6/7/1983 Liptovský Mikuláš, SVK
52 M. Marincin EDM 6'4" 188 2/18/1992 Kosice, SVK
14 A. Meszaros PHI 6'2" 223 10/13/1985 Považská Bystrica, SVK
44 A. Sekera CAR 6'0" 201 6/8/1986 Bojnice, SVK
19 T. Starosta 6'0" 196 5/20/1981 Trencin, SVK
23 R. Vydareny 6'1" 203 5/6/1981 Bratislava, SVK
# Goalies Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
31 P. Budaj MTL 6'1" 192 9/18/1982 Banska Bystrika, SVK
41 J. Halak STL 5'10" 186 5/13/1985 Bratislava, SVK
250 J. Laco 5'11" 183 12/1/1981 Liptovsky Mikulas, SVK