With the preliminary round of the 2019 IIHF World Championship wrapping up on Tuesday in Slovakia, the stage is now set for a pair of Florida Panthers to meet in Thursday's quarterfinals.
After falling 3-0 to Canada on Tuesday, Frank Vatrano and the United States dropped to fourth in Group A, meaning they'll face Evgenii Dadonov and Russia, the top team in Group B, in the first round of the knockout stage. The good news? At least one Panthers player will advance.
Helping Russia to a perfect 7-0-0 record during group play, Dadonov has easily been one of the tournament's biggest stars thus far. The 30-year-old winger lit the lamp for the seventh time in a 7-4 win over Sweden on Tuesday, placing him in a three-way tie for the tournament's goal-scoring lead.
Dadonov also leads the tournament with four goals on the power play.
The most-experienced Panther at this year's Worlds, Dadonov has previously won a gold medal in 2014, a silver medal in 2015 and bronze medals in 2016 and 2017. Having already pocketed 10 points this time around, he's increased his career total at the event to 51 points in 55 games.
As for Vatrano, the high-motor winger has potted a pair of a goals and chipped in an assist in seven games for the Americans, including the opening score in USA's 7-1 rout of Denmark on May 18. Making his second appearance the tournament, he's still seeking his first-ever medal.
Vatrano and Dadonov will meet at 10:15 a.m. ET on Thursday, with the action being available for your viewing pleasure on TSN3. If you don't have access to the game, check for updates on Twitter throughout the day by following @IIHFHockey, @FlaPanthers and @JamesonCoop.
Also at 10:15 a.m. ET, Vincent Praplan, who the Panthers acquired from the San Jose Sharks in February, will look to help guide Switzerland advance past Canada on NHL Network. Following a 5-4 loss to the Czech Republic on Tuesday, Switzerland finished fourth in Group A at 4-3-0.
Named on of the Swiss team's top-three players during his only previously trip to the Worlds in 2017, Praplan has racked up a goal and five assists in seven games at his year's tournament.
Last but not least, Juho Lammikko, who spent 40 games with the Panthers this past season, will attempt to help Finland overtake rival Sweden at 2:15 p.m. ET on NHL Network. After missing three games with an injury, the 23-year-old center returned to action during Finland's 4-2 loss to Germany on Tuesday. With the defeat, the Finns finished in second place in Group A at 5-1-1.
Used in a defensive, fourth-line role, Lammikko is still searching his first point at the tournament.
Photo courtsey of Matt Zambonin