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Slovakia looks to remain unbeaten in matchup with Sweden in final preliminary game

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Although Slovakia and Sweden have already earned spots in the Olympic quarterfinals starting Wednesday, their matchup one day earlier will set the tone for the medal round.

Leading Group B with eight points, unbeaten Slovakia will try to secure the top seed in its pool when it meets Sweden (3-1) in the final game of the preliminary round Tuesday.

Russia and Sweden have six points apiece, and the United States is in fourth place with three points. The top four teams in the six-team pool advance to the quarterfinals.

The Slovakians defeated Russia, the United States and Latvia before winning their fourth game in five days with a 2-1 victory over winless Kazakhstan on Sunday.

Slovakia trailed 1-0 until Peter Bondra of the Atlanta Thrashers scored the equalizer on a power play with 10 seconds remaining in the second period.

His Atlanta teammate, Marian Hossa, finished off a 3-on-1 break with less than 12 minutes remaining for the go-ahead goal.

"Every win gives us confidence," said Hossa, the tournament's second-leading scorer with four goals and three assists. "We feel good about ourselves, but we've still got one game to go before the first big game."

The Slovaks have a lot to feel good about. They have the highest scoring efficiency among the 12 teams, converting 13.8 percent of their shots for goals, and are in good position to improve upon their best Olympic finish, sixth place at the 1994 Lillehammer Games.

Slovakia's players, though, aren't ready to think about a gold medal.

"It's a little bit too early for that," said Pavol Demitra, who set up Hossa's winner for his fifth point of the Olympics. "There are still a lot of surprises left in this tournament."

In their last Olympic meeting in Lillehammer, Slovakia and Sweden tied 4-4 in round-robin play. The Slovaks finished first in their pool before losing in the quarterfinals, while Sweden went on to win the gold.

Peter Forsberg led that Sweden team, and he's expected back on the ice Tuesday. The Philadelphia Flyers star has been plagued by a groin injury that caused him to miss eight games leading up to the Olympics and the first two games in Turin - a 7-2 victory over Kazakhstan and the Swedes' 5-0 loss to Russia on Thursday.

Forsberg recorded two assists in a 6-1 victory over Latvia on Saturday, but sat out Sunday's 2-1 win over the United States.

"We're just playing for positioning," said Forsberg, who has three goals and 12 assists in 13 career Olympic contests. "It's not like you have to win or you're out."

Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson made sure Sweden kept winning, scoring his team-leading fourth goal to give the Swedes an early lead against the United States. He also assisted on the winning goal scored by Mikael Samuelsson on the power play in the third period.

Sweden's Henrik Lundqvist stopped 24 shots, and aided by the tournament's top-ranked penalty-killing unit, denied the U.S. on two five-on-three opportunities in the second period.

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