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World Championship Update – Onto the Playoff Round

by Kevin Wilson / Nashville Predators

Preliminary Round competition at the 2014 World Championship in Minsk, Belarus wrapped up on Tuesday, with 11 of the Predators’ 13 representatives at the tournament moving onto the quarterfinals, which will all take place on Thursday.

The United States finished the seven-game prelims on a three-game winning streak by topping Germany by a 5-4 score on Tuesday. Seth Jones played a game-high 26:39 and Craig Smith tied a game high with five shots on goal for the U.S., who will play the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals (8 a.m. CT) after finishing second to Russia in Group B.

Jones has stolen the show through the preliminary round, leading all defensemen in points (2g-7a-9pts) and tying for sixth among all skaters in the category. He also leads all skaters in assists, ranks among the Top Five in plus/minus (+6) and is third in average ice time (25:20). Smith is close behind – tied for third on the team in points (3g-4a-7pts) and among the Top 20 skaters.

Later Tuesday, Ryan Ellis recorded an assist and was one of two Canadian skaters to play more than 20 minutes (21:51), helping his nation beat Norway 3-2 and secure the top spot in Group A. With a goal and four assists in seven games, the Freelton, Ont., native leads Canadian defensemen, and ranks sixth among tournament blueliners, in points.

Canada will play Pekka Rinne, Miikka Salomaki and Team Finland in the quarterfinals (12 p.m. CT). A 25-save effort from Rinne in a 4-3 win over Kazakhstan secured the Finns’ spot as the No. 4 seed in Group B. Rinne played six of Finland’s seven preliminary round games, finishing with a .929 save percentage and a 1.65 goals-against average to rank among the tournament leaders in both categories. Salomaki has two points (1g-1a) in seven games, while ranking second on the team in plus/minus rating (+3).

Also on Monday, Sweden won their sixth game in seven tries, 5-1 over Italy, to finish with an identical record as Canada, but will settle for the No. 2 seed in Group A and a date with Belarus (1 p.m. CT) since Canada won the head-to-head matchup on Sunday, 3-2. Mattias Ekholm scored a goal and added an assist in the win over the Italians to finish tied for sixth with Ellis in defensive points (1g-3a) through the prelims. Calle Jarnkrok put a team-high six shots on goal and was a +1 in game seven of the tournament, and is tied for third on the Tre Kronor in plus/minus (+7).

Despite a 3-2 win over Latvia that saw Roman Josi record an assist and Simon Moser post a +1 rating, Switzerland was edged out by a single point for a spot in the quarterfinals. Josi finishes the tournament as the team leader in points (1g-6a-7pts) and assists, while ranking only second to Jones in points through the preliminary round. He also averaged 25:06, nearly four minutes more than his next closest teammate and was one of just four players to log more than 25 minutes per game to this point in the tournament.

The Nashville Predators have 13 representatives at the 2014 World Championship being held May 9-25 in Minsk, Belarus. Head Coach Peter Laviolette, Assistant Coach Phil Housley, Video Coach Lawrence Feloney, Seth Jones and Craig Smith are representing the United States, who is looking for back-to-back medals at the tournament after a bronze a year ago; Miikka Salomaki, Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros are playing for Finland; Calle Jarnkrok and Mattias Ekholm are looking to defend Sweden’s crown at the tournament; Simon Moser and Roman Josi represented Switzerland; and Ryan Ellis is playing for Canada.

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