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Unbeaten Slovakia hopes to avoid letdown against winless Kazakhstan

NHL.com @NHL

Having already posted wins over two medal favorites, Slovakia's next challenge is not looking past winless Kazakhstan.

The Slovakians beat the United States 2-1 on Saturday to remain undefeated and strengthen their first-place hold in Group B with six points.

Sweden and Russia have four points apiece and the Americans are in fourth place with three points. The top four teams in the six-team pool advance to the quarterfinals starting Wednesday.

Slovakia opened the tournament with victories over Russia and Latvia, before beating the United States. The Slovaks wrap up preliminary-round play with Sweden on Tuesday, but their primary focus is Kazakhstan.

"Right now we're putting all our energy toward (Sunday's) game, and there's been proof in this tournament that anybody can beat anybody," said Peter Bondra of the Atlanta Thrashers, who scored the game-winner against the United States.

Bondra is all too familiar with the Kazakhs. He was the assistant captain at the 1998 Nagano Games, when Kazakhstan eliminated the Slovaks in the preliminary round's final game.

The Slovaks failed to win a game at the 2002 Salt Lake Games while Kazakhstan didn't qualify.

But so far these Slovaks show no signs of letting up. Bondra's Atlanta teammate, Marian Hossa, put Slovakia on the board in the first period against the U.S. with his third goal of the tournament and sixth point overall.

Bondra's second goal of the Olympics 1:48 into the final period gave Slovakia just its second win over the Americans in international play.

"I think it was a great game, a very close game," said Pavol Demitra of the Los Angeles Kings, who had an assist for his fourth point of the Olympics. "All four lines contributed and we played great defensively. We waited for the right breaks, and we got two of them."

Slovakian goaltender Peter Budaj, one of three Colorado Avalanche goalies in the Olympics, led that defensive effort with 29 saves to earn his second win.

Slovakia is in prime position to improve upon its best Olympic finish, sixth place at the 1994 Lillehammer Games.

While Slovakia's roster boasts 18 NHL players, Kazakhstan has just two. So far that hasn't been enough.

Kazakh goaltender Vitali Yeremeyev made 49 saves against Russia on Saturday, but didn't get any offensive support en route to a 1-0 loss.

"We got a great game from our goalie, but so did they," said Kazakhstan's Nik Antropov, who plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs. "They're a hard team to beat because they play tough defense. We tried to do a lot of things, but it was hard to get up the ice and set up."

Kazakhstan, which finished eighth at the Nagano Games, has been outscored 12-3 in its three losses to Sweden, the United States and Russia.

The Kazakhs conclude pool play Tuesday against Latvia.

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