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Switzerland, Czech Republic play for second place

by Brian Hunter


When: Saturday, Noon ET (NBCSN)

Where: Bolshoy Ice Dome

What's at stake: With Sweden already owning a win against each team, Switzerland and the Czech Republic are playing for second place in Group C. The Czechs enter off a 4-2 win against Latvia in the early game Friday; the Swiss dropped a 1-0 decision to Sweden later in the day.

Switzerland: Whether taking the glass-half-full or glass-half-empty approach, it's undeniable Switzerland has proven itself a worthy opponent at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and continued to advance the program after winning the silver medal at the 2013 IIHF World Championship.

On the positive side, the Swiss have received excellent goaltending. Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks delivered a shutout effort in the opener against Latvia, and Reto Berra of the Calgary Flames was working on a goose egg of his own until one unfortunate mistake led to the only goal in the third period against Sweden.

Switzerland has not been able to find any offense, however, despite putting 68 shots on net in the first two games. They were going up against one of the world's great goalies Friday in Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, but in a game where just one well-placed shot could have made the difference, the Swiss couldn't come up with it.

"We just made one mistake in our D zone and that was the difference in the game," forward Roman Wick told the IIHF website. "We saw two great goalies today, and it was a fun game -- but it would have been more fun with more goals."

Czech Republic: Since spotting Sweden a four-goal cushion in their opener, the Czechs have outscored their opponents 6-2 over the course of almost five periods. A pair of New Jersey Devils, defenseman Marek Zidlicky and forward Jaromir Jagr, got them close in a 4-2 loss to the Swedes. Each scored again Friday in the win against Latvia.

The ageless Jagr, who turns 42 Saturday, opened eyes with his goal in the first period. Set up by Zidlicky, he kicked the pass from his skate to his stick, held the puck momentarily, then snapped his wrists and picked the far corner cleanly.

"That was unstoppable," said teammate Jakub Voracek, who scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in the second period. "The way he hits it, low-blocker … it's very hard for goalies to stop it. He knows how to score goals."

Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec, who didn't dress against Sweden, started and made 18 saves. With so much potentially on the line Saturday, it seems likely Pavelec would get the nod again.

What's next: With Sweden having already clinched Group C, the best the winner of this game can hope for is ending up as the top second-place finisher in the three groups and claiming the fourth bye into the quarterfinals. Otherwise it's off to the qualification playoff and a game Tuesday.

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