The United States National Junior Team will look to rebound from its first loss at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship when it faces Russia in the quarterfinal round of the tournament Thursday (6 a.m. ET, NHLN-US, NHL.com) at Malmo Arena in Sweden.
The Americans are 3-4-0 against Russia in the past 10 World Junior tournaments, including a 2-1 preliminary-round loss at the 2013 WJC in Ufa, Russia. The U.S. has six wins and 20 losses against Russia in all-time at the WJC, though three of the victories have come in the past seven meetings.
The last meeting in the quarterfinal round was a 6-1 Russia win in 2002. In the last medal-round match between the teams, Russia won 4-2 in bronze-medal game at the 2008 WJC.
After three successive victories in preliminary-round action against Czech Republic (5-1), Slovakia (6-3) and Germany (8-0), the United States lost 3-2 to Canada on Tuesday to earn the second seed in Group A. Russia lost 3-2 to Sweden in its final preliminary-round match to fall to third in Group B, setting up the opening medal-round match with the United States.
The teams appear to be very evenly matched. The U.S. outscored its four preliminary-round opponents 21-7, while Russia outscored its four foes 21-8. Each team also has 12 players with at least one goal in the tournament. Additionally, the United States ranks first among the 10 teams with 50.0-percent power-play efficiency (11-for-22), while Russia is second at 47.0 percent (8-for-17).
U.S. coach Don Lucia said he would like to see his group continue playing the game that enabled it to have so much success in preliminary-round play.
"I want to see us continue to play the way we play; I had no issues with our game [against Canada] other than we took a couple of penalties in the third period that you can't have," Lucia said. "Those penalties might have changed the outcome of the game. But I love the way the guys are competing and representing their country."
Russia top-line left wing Mikhail Grigorenko, a first-round draft choice (No. 12) of the Buffalo Sabres in 2012, leads Russia with six points (three goals). The U.S. is led by defenseman Matthew Grzelcyk (two goals, six points) and forward Nicolas Kerdiles (one goal, six points).
Both teams have received solid goaltending. For the United States, Jon Gillies (Calgary Flames) is 2-1 with a 2.35 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. The Russians will counter with Andrey Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning), who is 2-1 with a 1.61 GAA and .928 save percentage.
"It's win or go home now," Grzelcyk said. "This is where you want to be in the tournament. We didn't win the pool, which was our goal from Day 1, but we set ourselves up in a good spot and we just want to continue winning moving forward."
Here are the possible line combinations for each team:
Nicolas Kerdiles - Daniel O'Regan - Riley Barber
Stefan Matteau - Jack Eichel - Ryan Hartman
Adam Erne - Andrew Copp - Hudson Fasching
Thomas Di Pauli - Vincent Hinostroza - Quentin Shore
Ian McCoshen - Matthew Grzelcyk
Brady Skjei - Connor Carrick
Will Butcher - Steven Santini
Mikhail Grigorenko - Pavel Buchnevich - Anton Slepyshev
Alexander Barabanov - Vyacheslav Osnovin - Damir Zhafyarov
Vadim Khlopotov - Ivan Barbashev - Bogdan Yakimov
Nikolai Sladnichenko - Georgi Basarov - Eduard Gimatov
Nikita Zadorov - Andrei Mironov
Ilya Lyubushkin - Nikita Tryamkin
Alexei Bereglazov - Kirill Maslov
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL