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Sweden faces Latvia with chance to sweep Group C

by Adam Kimelman / NHL.com

SWEDEN vs. LATVIA

When: Saturday, Noon ET (USA)

Where: Shayba Arena

What's at stake: Sweden will look to find some chemistry in its forward lines as it attempts to replace captain Henrik Zetterberg, who will miss the remainder of the 2014 Sochi Olympics due to a herniated disk in his back. Latvia, which has put a nice scare into its first two opponents before coming up short, will try once more to pull off a major upset.

Sweden: Already missing one giant offensive cog in Henrik Sedin, the Swedes learned early Friday they would be without another as Zetterberg soon will return to Detroit for further evaluation of his back problem.

With so much of the Swedes' offense missing, the burden fell to goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to raise his play and for the team to find other avenues to generate offense. They got some of both Friday in their 1-0 win against Switzerland.

Lundqvist made 26 saves, and the game's lone goal came from 41-year-old Daniel Alfredsson.

"We were fortunate at the beginning that Hank [Lundqvist] kept us in the game," defenseman Niklas Kronwall, named captain after Zetterberg's withdrawal, said. "From the 10-minute mark of the first period onward, I thought we did some good things. I still think we can do better offensively."

That means more from players like Alfredsson, Daniel Sedin and Gustav Nyquist.

"We've got a lot of injuries," Daniel Sedin said. "That's when you need other guys to step up, and this was a big win."

Latvia: For the second straight game, Latvia put forth an effort few thought it was capable of and put a scare into one of the world's hockey powers. But for the second straight game, they came up empty, this time in a 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic on Friday.

Latvia's Herberts Vasiljevs scored 2:45 into the second period to tie the game 2-2, but the Czechs scored twice in a 10-minute span later in the period to take a 4-2 lead. Latvia's best chance came late in the third when back-to-back Czech penalties gave Latvia a 57-second 5-on-3 power play, but they couldn't take advantage.

Their valiant but losing effort followed their 1-0 loss to Switzerland on Wednesday, a game that was scoreless until Swiss forward Simon Moser scored with 7.9 seconds left in regulation.

"I felt we played a good game," Latvia's Janis Sprukts told the IIHF website after the game Thursday. "We started a bit slow in the beginning because it's just hard to get into the game in the morning. But we came back with a lot of energy and tried to be in the game as much as possible. We created some good chances."

What's next: This will be the final game of preliminary-round play for both teams. Sweden already has clinched the top spot in Group C; Latvia's final seeding still is to be determined.

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