The United States National Junior Team will go for its second straight win in preliminary-round play at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship with a Group A game Saturday against Slovakia at the Malmo Isstadion in Malmo, Sweden.
The Slovaks are coming off a 9-2 victory against Germany on Friday, led by two goals each from Milan Kolena and Columbus Blue Jackets 2013 first-round pick (No. 27) Marko Dano. The United States defeated the Czech Republic 5-1 in their tournament opener Thursday.
The U.S. leads the all-time series with Slovakia nine victories, three losses and one tie in 13 games. At the 2013 WJC the Americans beat Slovakia 9-3 in the preliminary round on the way to winning a gold medal. The U.S. has won the past three meetings against the Slovaks.
The only change to the U.S. lineup will come with the forward group as only 12 forwards will be in the lineup, rather than the 13 used in the opener.
Nashville Predators prospect Zach Stepan, who played left wing on the fourth line, exited the game against Czech Republic midway through the third period with an apparent lower-body injury. He did not practice with the team Friday and has been listed as day-to-day.
Stepan's absence will give more ice time to Thomas DiPauli (Washington Capitals), who saw limited ice time as the 13th forward Thursday but now will get a regular shift on the fourth line, alongside center Quentin Shore (Ottawa Senators) and right wing Vincent Hinostroza (Chicago Blackhawks).
Forwards Riley Barber (Washington Capitals), Hudson Fasching (Los Angeles Kings), and Hinostroza, along with defensemen Will Butcher (Colorado Avalanche) and Jaccob Slavin (Carolina Hurricanes) scored for the United States. The U.S. received at least one point from 13 different players in the victory.
Here are the probable line combinations for both teams:
Filip Mlyncar - David Minarik - Stanislav Horansky
Pavol Skalicky - Eduard Simun - Jozef Tibensky
Patrik Luza - Jakub Predajniansky
Tomas Rusina - Daniel Gachulinec
Michal Valjent - Erik Cernak
Martin Keckes - Lubomir Dinda