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Slovenia close to qualifying for Olympics

Can clinch trip to PyeongChang in 2018 with win against Belarus on Sunday

NHL.com @NHL

Slovenia moved within one victory of a return trip to the Winter Olympics by defeating Denmark 3-0 in Group D of the Olympic qualifying tournament in Minsk, Belarus.

The winners of the three qualifying tournaments will complete the 12-team field for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. They will join Canada, the United States, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Switzerland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and South Korea, the host nation.

Gasper Kroselj made 32 saves for Slovenia (2-0-0-0, six points). Sabahudin Kovacevic gave Slovenia a 1-0 lead 4:18 into the second period, and Ales Music and Jan Urbas scored in the third period.

Slovenia made its first trip to the Winter Olympics in 2014.

Denmark goaltender Frederik Andersen (Toronto Maple Leafs) left the game with 4:21 remaining in the third period after a collision with teammate Oliver Bjorkstrand. He sustained an upper-body injury, and the Maple Leafs said he will fly to Toronto to be examined by team officials.

Belarus 5, Poland 3 - The home team spotted Poland a two-goal lead less than nine minutes into the game before scoring five unanswered goals.

Andrei Stepanov had a goal and an assist when Belarus scored four goals in the final 6:09 of the first period to take a 4-2 lead. Andrei Kostitsyn scored late in the second period for Belarus (2-0-0-0, six points), which plays Slovenia on Sunday.

Poland plays Denmark (0-0-0-2, 0 points) on Sunday in a game between two winless teams.

Group E

Germany 6, Austria 0 -- Germany exacted some revenge by rolling over Austria in their game at Riga, Latvia.

Goaltender Philipp Grubauer (Washington Capitals) made 25 saves, including one on a penalty shot by Thomas Raffl, for his second shutout in two days. Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers) was the last of six goal-scorers for Germany (2-0-0-0).

Austria (0-0-0-2, 0 points), which defeated Germany to earn a spot at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, has been outscored 14-1 in its two losses.

Video: ANA@WSH: Grubauer makes stop on Lindholm's wrist shot

Latvia 3, Japan 1 - Andris Dzerins scored twice to push Latvia into a winner-take-all game Sunday.

Dzerins gave Latvia a 1-0 lead when he scored at 15:54 of the second period, then hit an empty net with eight seconds left in the third period. Martins Karsums also scored for Latvia (2-0-0-0).

Shuhei Kuhi scored the first goal of the tournament for Japan (0-0-0-2, 0 points) with 2:14 remaining in the third period.

Latvia outshot Japan 41-18.

Group F

France 4, Kazakhstan 1 - France allowed a goal by former New York Ranger forward Nigel Dawes 20 seconds into the game but rallied behind two goals by Damien Fleury to take the lead in Group F at Oslo.

Fleury's first goal came at 15:32 of the first period and gave France a 2-1 lead. He scored again with 4:29 left in the third to make it 3-1. Former NHL goaltender Cristobal Huet made 24 saves one day before his 41st birthday.

France (1-1-0-0, five points) can earn a trip to PyeongChang by defeating Norway on Sunday. Kazakhstan (1-0-0-1, three points) plays winless Italy on Sunday.

Norway 4, Italy 1 - Norway got goals from four players and outshot Italy 34-13.

Mathis Olimb and Tommy Kristiansen scored in the first period for Norway. After Italy made it 2-1 on goal by Tommaso Traversa at 14:51 of the second, Jonos Holos and Andreas Martinsen put the game away with third-period goals.

Norway (1-0-1-0, four points) is one point behind France entering their game Sunday. Italy (0-0-1-1) was eliminated.

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