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Avalanche Olympic Update: Feb. 23

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
The preliminary round is now in the books and the teams have been seeded for the playoff portion at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The tournament goes on a slight hiatus Monday, but the action returns Tuesday with qualification round play before the quarterfinal round kicks off Wednesday.

How it works: Following the conclusion of the preliminary round, the top seeds in Group A (United States), Group B (Russia) and Group C (Sweden), along with the country holding the fourth-best overall point total (Finland) received byes into Wednesday’s quarterfinal round. The remaining eight teams will take part in the qualification round on Tuesday in hopes of earning a berth in the quarterfinals.

Click here for the overall standings after the preliminary round, as well as a detailed explanation on how the rest of the tournament will shake out.

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USA Earns Bye With Big Win
In case you missed it somehow, Paul Stastny and Team USA pulled out a 5-3 victory over Canada on Sunday night to secure a spot in the quarterfinal round. With the victory, Team USA clinched the top overall seed in the tournament for playoff purposes. The Americans won all three of their preliminary round matchups in regulation to earn nine points and hold the top seed by having a +9 goal differential (14-5). Sweden, the only other team to survive the preliminary round unscathed, held a +7 goal differential (9-2).

Next Up For The United States:
The Americans will sit back on Tuesday and await the winner of the Belarus/Switzerland matchup.

Stastny Stats: The Avalanche assistant captain hasn’t recorded a point through Team USA’s first three contests, but has played a solid two-way game with a +2 plus/minus rating and six shots on goal. Stastny is averaging 16:36 of ice time per game, ranking him fourth among American forwards.

Click here for Team USA’s full stats.

Slovakia Finishes Strong In Preliminary Round
After opening the Olympics with a loss to the Czech Republic, Slovakia finished the preliminary round in style by beating Russia in a shootout and then blanking Latvia. With a 1-1-0-1 record (W-OTW-OTL-L) and five points Slovakia finished third in Group B and earned the No. 7 overall seed.

Next Up For Slovakia: A berth in the quarterfinal round will be on the line Tuesday when Slovakia takes on Norway at 10:00 p.m. MT. The winner of that contest will earn the right to face Sweden in the quarterfinals.

Budaj Stats: Avalanche netminder Peter Budaj has dressed for all three of Slovakia’s games, but has yet to see any action at the Olympics.

Click here for Slovakia’s full stats.

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Belarus Comes In At No. 9
Avalanche defenseman Ruslan Salei helped lead his Belarus squad to a 1-0-0-2 record in the preliminary round, which included a 5-3 victory over Germany on Saturday. Serving as Belarus’ captain, Salei netted the eventual game-winning goal in that contest to help his club capture the No. 9 overall seed.

Next Up For Belarus: Salei and his teammates will face Switzerland at 1:00 p.m. MT on Tuesday. The victor will move on to the quarterfinals, where Stastny and Team USA will be waiting.

Salei Stats: The defenseman has had a strong tournament. Along with his crucial goal against Germany, he has been a workhorse on Belarus’ blue line by averaging 21:11 of ice time  (second on the team by only eight seconds per game to fellow defenseman Viktor Kostiuchenok) while carrying a +1 plus/minus rating.

Click here for Belarus’ full stats.

Norway Earns One Point In Preliminary Round
With a 0-0-1-2 record, Avalanche prospect Jonas Holos and Norway earned one point during the preliminary round by taking Switzerland to overtime on Saturday. That point total gives Norway the No. 10 overall seed, placing the club just ahead of the only two teams to finish the preliminary round without a point (Germany and Latvia).

Next Up For Norway: As previously mentioned, Norway will face off against Slovakia during the qualification round on Tuesday. The winner will take on Sweden in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

Holos Stats: The defenseman finished the preliminary round pointless in three contests, but was still one of Norway’s most valuable players. Holos is leading all players at the Olympics with 28:41 of average ice time and 125 total shifts. In fact, only three other players have logged over 100 shifts at the Olympics – Holos’ teammates Mats Trygg (112) and Tommy Jakobsen (106), and Switzerland defenseman Mark Streit (107).

Click here for Norway’s full stats.
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