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Chara, Krejci Meet as Playoffs Begin

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins – For David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and their native countries, the Olympics haven’t necessarily gone as they had hoped.

The Czech Republic finished the preliminary round with one win and two losses. Meanwhile, Slovakia lost all three of their first round games, though they picked up a hard-fought point in the shootout in their final game against Russia.

Heading into the qualification playoff round on Tuesday (February 18) in Sochi, Russia, the two Bruins find themselves facing each other in a situation where the preliminary round no longer matters.

The puck drops at 12:00 p.m. ET, live on NBCSN (9:00 p.m. local time in Sochi).

When the final buzzer sounds, one Bruin and his country will move on, while the journey to a medal will end for the other and his fellow countrymen. The winner will next face the United States in quarterfinal action.

As Chara has always preached in regards to the Olympics, "anybody can beat anybody," especially in a one-and-done situation.

In 2010, Chara and Slovakia made a run to the semifinals, where they pushed Canada until the end, fighting back from a 3-0 deficit and ultimately falling 3-2. His squad then fell to Finland, 5-3, in the bronze medal game.

Slovakia had initially struggled to find its footing in 2010 in Vancouver, much like this time around in 2014 in Russia. But like the rest of the field, the team is starting to come together at the right time.

For Krejci, then a 23-year-old in 2010, he and the Czech Republic finished fifth overall after the prelims, and eventually fell to Finland, 2-0, in the quarterfinals. The 2014 version features a veteran team that went to Sochi with high expectations, and now faces possible elimination.

Four years later, both teams are pushing for the end results they weren't able to achieve.

Below offers a look at how the preliminary round played out for Chara and Krejci in Sochi, though, as already highlighted, it's anybody's game now.

Chara, Slovakia Building

In its opening game, Slovakia fell 7-1 to the United States after it was tied at 1-1 early in the second period. Chara logged 18:01 in ice time and ended with an even rating, despite the score. He was on the ice for his team's lone goal and then David Backes' tally that came right after a penalty kill. It put Team USA up 4-1 and they took control.

Slovenia then stunned the Slovaks, earning a 3-1 win for their first-ever Olympic victory in men's hockey. Chara logged the second-most minutes on the team (24:06) in a game that was scoreless after two periods. He assisted on Slovakia's only goal, but it came with just 18 seconds left in regulation.

With the home team up next, Slovakia took Russia all the way to a shootout. They ultimately fell 1-0, but picked up their only point of the prelims and likely built some confidence in the process. Big Zee's minutes jumped to 27:39, with 2:49 of that coming in overtime and 10:15 in the third, when Russia outshot Slovakia 15-2.

"I really thought we had good bounce-back after [Saturday against Slovenia]," Chara told "We just have to build on that and get ready for our next opponent. You always have a chance in this tournament no matter what you do in your first games. You can still move along if you win that do-or-die game. We have to get ready for that."

Krejci, Czechs Hoping for Spark

In the Czech Republic's first game in Sochi, they fell to Sweden 4-2 after fighting back from a four-goal hole. Krejci logged 19:36 in ice time, centering Ondrej Palat and Jakub Voracek, and leading all forwards in the third with 9:13 when his squad made their push.

They bounced back with a 4-2 win over Latvia, in which Krejci notched an assist on the Czechs' opening goal, feeding a drop pass to Martin Erat. He finished with 15:18 in ice time and an even rating, playing with new linemates Milan Michalek and Ales Hemsky.

The Czechs then fell 1-0 in their final preliminary round game to Switzerland, who gave up only one goal through their first three games. Krejci was on the ice for the Swiss goal, skating from a battle along the boards before seeing the shot go past Ondrej Pavelec, and swatting the puck away in frustration. The center logged 19:23 (leading all forwards in the third period with 9:19), recorded one shot and made his presence felt with a pounding hit while on the penalty kill.

Krejci finished the prelims ranked fourth in faceoff win percentage among players who suited up in all three games, winning 70.3-percent of his draws.

Second Time Around

Chara and Krejci have faced off before, with the matchup coming back in 2010 in Krejci's Olympic debut. The Czech Republic defeated Slovakia 3-1 in both teams' first game of the tournament on February 17, 2010.

Krejci was welcomed to the Olympic stage with a heavy hit from the 6-foot-9 Chara during the game.

"I was just trying to protect the puck, I didn't care if I got run over," Krejci had said. "It's just the things you do for the team…It's okay, I get up and get back into the play."

The center had also said that during the game, he accidentally tripped Big Zee, who let it go without calling for a penalty.

We'll see if the niceties between the Black & Gold continue again on Tuesday.

Quarterfinals on Tap

While Slovakia and the Czech Republic will duel it out to advance, Loui Eriksson (Sweden), Tuukka Rask (Finland) and Patrice Bergeron (Canada) have already moved on to the quarterfinals, which take place on Wednesday, February 19.

For the full schedule, head to

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