Rested Finland takes on weary and aching Czech team
Wednesday, 02.24.2010 / 7:00 PM
Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing EditorCZECH REPUBLIC (3-1-0-0) vs. FINLAND (2-1-0-0)
What to watch
-- The Czechs avoided disaster on Tuesday night when David Krejci scored in overtime to lift his team to a 3-2 victory against Latvia, which rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force the extra session.
The big question heading into Wednesday's game is, will Jaromir Jagr be available to play? The Czech forward was forced to leave during Tuesday's win due to a stiff neck that was suffered on Sunday after Jagr was drilled at center ice by Russia's Alex Ovechkin.
"We hope he'll be available to play," Czech coach Vladimir Ruzicka said after his team's great escape at the University of British Columbia's Thunderbird Arena. "We believe he will be ready. And obviously, we're hoping he can play the whole game."
Finland, meanwhile, earned a bye into the quarterfinals despite a 3-0 loss to Sweden on Sunday night. The Finns fired 20 shots on Henrik Lundqvist, but the New York Rangers goaltender stopped them all for his second shutout of the tournament.
"The Swedes are a very good team when they have the lead," Finland coach Jukka Jalonen said. "The game was over I would say after the second period."
Last game -- Czech Republic won in overtime over Latvia, 3-2; Finland lost to Sweden, 3-0.
Czech Republic -- Clearly, the Czechs will need a better effort on Wednesday if they have any hope of advancing to the semifinals of this tournament.
And they know it.
"Obviously, we got a win that was important," Krejci said. "But the way we played (against Latvia), we can't play (against Finland). So I would prefer to forget about this game and move forward. And tomorrow is going to be the biggest game of my career.
"So I'll get ready tonight and tomorrow and be ready to show lots of heart tomorrow. I'm sure everybody else will do that, too."
Finland -- The Finns will have to find a way to fill the void left by defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who will not be in the lineup on Wednesday.
Pitkanen was suspended for one game after receiving a game misconduct penalty for hitting Sweden's Patric Hornqvist in the head late in the second period on Sunday night.
"He's a key part on the power play and obviously on the breakouts he's such a good skater and mobile defenseman and sees the ice well," defenseman Sami Salo said. "Obviously it's a big loss, but it opens up a spot for Janne Niskala."
Total NHL players in game -- Czech Republic: 16. Finland: 18.
Puck Drop -- Win or lose, Krejci created a memory that will last a lifetime on Tuesday night. The story of how he scored an overtime goal to put his team in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Olympic Games will certainly be told to his grandchildren one day.
For now, though, he'll do his best to remain focused on the task at hand -- disposing of Finland.
"I don't think I've scored a bigger goal," the Boston Bruins' forward said. "This is something special. And it's pretty cool. But with our team performance, I wasn't very happy.
"I want to forget about it. I'm going to think about my goal after the tournament is over. But right now is not the right time to celebrate that goal."
NHL.com predicts -- One has to believe the Finns are still seething from Sunday's loss, and the Czechs needed every ounce of energy just to get past Latvia on Tuesday night. With little time to prepare, expect Finland to bounce back in a big way with a 3-1 victory.