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2019 World Championship Journal: Time for a Tough Test vs. Russia

Team USA has moved on to the quarterfinals and will face its biggest challenge yet

by Brady Skjei | @BradySkjei

From now until the conclusion of the 2019 IIHF Men's Ice Hockey World Championship, Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei will be documenting his experience on and off the ice as he competes in the tournament for the first time alongside fellow Blueshirts Chris Kreider and Adam Fox. Follow along with his journey right here, and on Twitter (@NYRangers) and Instagram (@nyrangers). 

Tomorrow is a big day for Team USA: We face Russia, the top seed in the tournament, in the quarterfinals at Worlds. 

Getting here wasn't easy. We won five times - once in overtime - and lost twice, in our first and last games of the preliminaries. Our win over Germany this past Sunday clinched our quarterfinals berth, which was obviously a huge thing. That's the goal coming into the tournament, is you want to get into this part of the tournament, to another round. We were really excited.

We obviously wanted to get as many points as we could to get the No. 1 seed, but the way things worked out, we're the No. 4 seed, so we're playing a really good team to start - but no matter what, there's definitely no easy games from here on out, no matter where you're seeded. It's going to be a challenge, and we're really excited to play Russia and hopefully knock them out. 

In our last game of the preliminaries, we had a tough loss against Canada. We didn't play even close to our capabilities, but today at the rink, we had a really good meeting and went over some video, and saw some things that we need to do to improve. 

Against Canada, the biggest thing for us was puck management. We turned over the puck way too much, and against any good team like Canada or Russia, they thrive off that -turnovers and odd-man rushes - so puck management's huge. 

On top of that, we just need to play tight defensively. That's going to be a huge thing. We want to play our forwards against Russia's defensemen and defend as well as we possibly can because they obviously have a really skilled group of forwards, between Kucherov, Malkin, Kuznetsov … the list goes on. They have some of the best players in the NHL and some of the best players in the world - just some elite skill. They can really make you pay if you make mistakes; that's probably the strength of their team. We just need to try to keep the puck out of their forwards' hands as much as we can and limit their chances because they definitely can capitalize on them when they get the puck. We want to try to take the game to their D and play in their zone as much as we can, and if we play the way we know we can play, we should put up a good test and hopefully come out on top. 

Obviously, playing Russia tomorrow, there's going to be at least one really familiar face on the other side. Georgie isn't starting in net for those guys, but it would be a lot of fun to play against him. He was really good for us at the end of the year and has been really good for them in this tournament and definitely earned his ice time up to this point. No matter what, though, I'll be focused on the game, and then after, I'll say hi and see how he's doing. 

Now that the quarters are starting, we've moved over from Kosice to the main site of the tournament, which is in Bratislava. We just got here today. The weather's been a little gloomy and rainy, but the city itself is really cool - old cobblestone streets, a lot of history. Tonight, I went to dinner with Cory Schneider and Kreids and our girlfriends - had a great dinner and definitely want to stay here for a few more days so we can get to know the city a little better. 

When you're here for 3 1/2 weeks just to play hockey, it can be nice to kind of park that for a few hours and take your mind off what's happening on the ice, so it was really nice to be able to get out and play some golf with some of the guys during our off day last week. Most of the guys here are guys that I know well, just through these tournaments and through USA Hockey, and to be able to spend some time with them on the golf course was just a lot of fun. Four of us actually went back on Monday on another off day to play nine holes. It's nice to clear the mind a little bit and just have some fun doing something else for a few hours. I had the lowest nine-hole score both times (not a big deal). 

I know that back home in New York, today was a big day for the Rangers organization with J.D. being introduced as team president. I'm far away, but even all the way over here in Slovakia, it's easy to see how excited people are to welcome J.D. back home. I'm really excited to meet him. I've heard nothing but really good things about him from guys who were with him in Columbus, like Seth Jones and Zach Werenski - they said great things, and obviously the Rangers community loves him. I think he's the perfect guy for us to move forward, and for us in the future. 

Don't forget to tune in tomorrow - puck drops at 10:15 ET on NHL Network! 

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