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Switzerland faces expectations, upstart in Latvia

Wednesday, 02.12.2014 / 2:01 PM

Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Switzerland faces expectations, upstart in Latvia
Latvia vs. Switzerland

LATVIA vs. SWITZERLAND

When: Wednesday, 12 p.m. ET (MSNBC)

Where: Shayba Arena

What's at stake: With Sweden expected to be the class of Group C and the Czech Republic dangerous as well, this is a must game for Switzerland if it intends to establish itself as a dark horse in the 2014 Sochi Olympics and an immediate opportunity for Latvia to pull off an upset.

Latvia: He's spent the past few months hard at work trying to turn the fortunes of the Buffalo Sabres; now coach Ted Nolan goes from the NHL back to the international stage, trying to lead one of the tournament's top underdogs to what would be a monumental win for the program. Latvia finished 12th at Vancouver in 2010 and had to win its way to Sochi via the qualification tournament last February.

Zemgus Girgensons, who plays for Nolan in Buffalo and is one of the NHL's bright young prospects, is also the only player currently in the League on Latvia's roster. But they also have goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis, a prospect for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh, a veteran of 875 NHL games. Ozolinsh, who turns 42 in August, has spent the past five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League and is thrilled to be back with the national team.

"It's not just being on the ice for the game," Ozolinsh said in the New York Times. "It's being off the ice, in the locker room, in practice. I'm really enjoying the whole process."

Switzerland: For perhaps the first time, there are real expectations for Switzerland that come from outside the country itself and its supporters. The Swiss took Canada to a shootout in group play in Vancouver and lost a hard-fought 2-0 decision to the United States in the quarterfinals. Then came the major breakthrough last year, when the team won its first seven games at the 2013 World Championship en route to a silver medal.

The roster is an exciting mix of NHL talent -- led by Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller, forwards Damien Brunner (New Jersey Devils) and Nino Niederreiter (Minnesota Wild) and defensemen Roman Josi (Nashville Predators) and Mark Streit (Philadelphia Flyers) -- as well as national team veterans and emerging stars. Josi, one of the stars at the Worlds (four goals, nine points in 10 games), expressed quiet confidence at what the Swiss hope to accomplish in Sochi.

"After the World Championships, our expectations at the Olympics are obviously a little bit higher," Josi said. "We're still underdogs and we are still a small team (compared to the favorites), but we are not going to Sochi just to play there. Our goal is to make it through the qualifiers and then take it game-by-game and day-by-day in the medal round."

What's next: Each team gets a day off Thursday before returning to action on Friday. Latvia will take on the Czech Republic in the opening game at 3 a.m. ET, while Switzerland faces off with Sweden at 7:30 a.m. in a game that could have major implications as far as deciding Group C if each team wins its opener.

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
Switzerland
# Forwards Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
10 A. Ambühl 5'9" 192 9/14/1983 Davos, SUI
48 M. Bieber 5'11" 187 3/14/1986 Zürich, SUI
23 S. Bodenmann 5'10" 187 3/2/1988 Urnäsch, SUI
96 D. Brunner NJD 5'10" 185 3/9/1986 Zürich, SUI
12 L. Cunti 6'0" 187 7/4/1989 Zürich, SUI
51 R. Gardner 6'6" 227 4/18/1978 Toronto, ON
70 D. Hollenstein 6'0" 194 10/15/1989 Mosnang, SUI
82 S. Moser NSH 6'2" 214 3/10/1989 Bern, SUI
22 N. Niederreiter MIN 6'2" 209 9/8/1992 Chur, SUI
28 M. Plüss 5'9" 187 4/5/1977 Bülach, SUI
88 K. Romy 6'0" 194 1/31/1985 La Chax-de-Fonds, SUI
24 R. Suri 6'0" 185 3/25/1989 Zürich, SUI
43 M. Trachsler 6'0" 198 7/15/1984 Zürich, SUI
14 R. Wick 6'2" 207 12/30/1985 Zuzwil, SUI
# Defense Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
5 S. Blindenbacher 5'11" 194 3/15/1983 Bülach, SUI
16 R. Diaz VAN 5'11" 197 1/9/1986 Baar, SUI
90 R. Josi NSH 6'1" 192 6/1/1990 Bern, SUI
31 M. Seger 5'11" 190 12/17/1977 Ermatingen, SUI
7 M. Streit PHI 5'11" 191 12/11/1977 Bern, SUI
3 J. Vauclair 6'0" 203 10/2/1979 Bure, SUI
72 P. von Gunten 5'11" 183 2/10/1985 Sigriswil, SUI
6 Y. Weber VAN 5'11" 200 9/23/1988 Morges, SUI
# Goalies Club HT WT DOB Birthplace
R. Berra CGY 6'4" 194 1/3/1987 Bülach, SUI
J. Hiller ANA 6'2" 192 2/12/1982 Felben Wellhausen, SUI
T. Stephan 6'3" 187 1/21/1984 Zürich, SUI