CZECH REPUBLIC vs. LATVIA
When: Friday, 3 a.m. ET (MSNBC, TSN)
Where: Bolshoy Ice Dome
What's at stake: Each team is looking to bounce back after losing its opener. The Czechs paid the price for a bad start in a 4-2 loss to Sweden; Latvia was 7.9 seconds from getting to overtime against Switzerland before a bad bounce resulted in the game's only goal and a 1-0 loss.
Czech Republic: Coach Alois Hadamczik will undoubtedly stress to his team the necessity of being ready from the opening faceoff. The Czechs found themselves in a four-goal hole 24:07 into their game against the powerful Swedes in their opener, and though they received goals by New Jersey Devils teammates Marek Zidlicky and Jaromir Jagr, it wasn’t enough.
"We were just sitting back too much," said forward Patrik Elias, also of the Devils. "We were passive. We didn't go. We backed off. We talked about being patient without the puck but that's what we did for the whole [first] period. We got in trouble with the penalties, they scored on it. That's simplified but that was the reason."
Don’t be surprised if Hadamczik makes a change in goal. He didn’t dress Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets against Sweden, opting instead to use two KHL goalies; starter Jakub Kovar allowed three goals on 10 shots before being pulled less than a minute into the second period. Alexander Salak surrendered the Swedes' fourth goal on the first shot he faced, though he did stop 14 shots after that. Hadamczik said he was giving Pavelec some extra time to adjust his body clock after coming from 10 time zones away.
Latvia: The Latvians, expected to finish last in Group C, come into this game both pleased and disappointed after a loss to Switzerland in their first game. Latvia goaltender Edgars Masalskis stopped the first 38 shots he faced. But after Latvian forward Lauris Darzins was checked behind the Swiss net and injured on the play, he was slow to get up and there was a delay in replacing him after he got to the bench. With the Swiss essentially playing 5-on-4, a pass by forward Simon Moser of the Nashville Predators hit Latvian defenseman Georgijs Pujacs and slid across the goal line with 7.9 seconds left.
Still, the Latvians were buoyed by their strong showing against one of the up-and-comers in international hockey.
"We got better and better and showed that we can really compete," coach Ted Nolan said. "Unfortunately it's a game of mistakes and we made one when it mattered the most. … One of our players got hit behind the boards. It was a 5-on-4 situation and we still had the puck. If we just would have thrown it in deep maybe we would have been able to kill off the last nine seconds."
What's next: The teams complete their preliminary-round play on Saturday when Latvia faces Sweden and the Czech Republic plays Switzerland.