Both teams enter the game with a 1-1 record, having lost to Sweden and defeated Latvia thus far. The winner of this game will finish second in Group C and the loser will fall to third.
The Czech’s started the tournament on the wrong foot, falling behind Sweden 4-0 before battling back to make the score a respectable 4-2. They would then defeat Latvia by the same score, and Plekanec collected an assist in each game, playing on the most impressive Czech line with Jaromir Jagr.
Switzerland has been relying heavily on their goaltending in Sochi, beating Latvia 1-0 before falling to the Swede’s in another 1-0 contest. It was goaltender Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks who shutout Latvia, and he will be the starter against Czech Republic today. Reto Berra of the Calgary Flames was excellent against Sweden, stopping 30 of 31 shots, but the pesky Swiss could not beat Henrik Lundqvist at the other end.
The Czech Republic have made several puzzling roster decisions, both in choosing the team and in ice time deployment. First, they left NHL scorers Jiri Hudler and Radim Vrbata among others off the roster altogether. Then in the opening game, Ladislav Smid and Ales Hemsky sat on the bench for nearly the entire game, while Roman Cervenka played on the first line.
The Czech coaches have made the correct decision to lean on Tomas Plekanec. The Canadiens center, and Czech captain has averaged 21:07 in the first two games, more than any other forward on the team. In fact, he only trails the top two defensemen on the team in time on ice. Oddly, one of those defenders is Tomas Kaberle, who was bought out by the Habs in the Summer.
The winner of this game will not win their group, but will be amongst the “wildcard” teams so to speak that have a chance to finish fourth overall and receive a bye to the Quarterfinals, though each teams current goal differential of zero does not bode well for their tiebreaker chances. At the very least, winning this game would give the Czech republic an easy game in the Qualification Round against a low seed.