Tuesday Olympic Hockey Previews and Open Thread

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Full slate of Olympic hockey today, let's preview the games, and feel free to use this as your open thread for all the action today:

(Previews courtesy of CTV.ca)

Switzerland v. Belarus

3 p.m. EST Canada Hockey Place

The records: Belarus 1-0-0-2 = 3 points, ninth place overall; Switzerland 0-1-1-1 = 3 points, 8th overall.

What's at stake: A berth in the quarter-finals opposite the top-seeded United States. Of the two teams, Switzerland had the better preliminary round, acquitting themselves well against the U.S. and Canada, before faltering slightly in the favorite's role versus Norway. Both teams scored eight goals in the preliminary round; Belarus showed in 2002 by upsetting Sweden that it is capable of pulling off an Olympic surprise.

Who to watch: Switzerland' Jonas Hiller has had an effective tournament so far and is the key to their medal hopes. He can't afford a Tommy Salo-like meltdown against Belarus which has finished fourth and fifth at the last Olympics, but needs the likes of Sergei Kostitsyn and Konstantin Kolstov to provide scoring.

Canada v. Germany

7:30 EST Canada Hockey Place

The records: Canada 1-1-0-1 = 5 points, sixth overall. Germany 0-0-0-3 = 0 points, 11th overall.

What's at stake: A chance to play the third-seeded Russians in the quarter-finals. Germany was swept in the preliminary round and shut out twice along the way. Scoring goals is an issue for them; philosophically, under coach Uwe Krupp, they tend to trap heavily, clogging up the neutral and frustrating their opponents. Canada isn't ripping it up offensively the way they can, but even at that, they have 14 goals, tied for the tournament lead with the United States. Germany gave Canada a major scare at the 1992 Olympics; Canada needing a goal from Eric Lindros in an extra round of the shootout to secure a 4-3 victory and keep their medal hopes alive.

Who to watch: Thomas Greiss will likely start in goal for Germany; he is the back-up goaltender for the NHL's San Jose Sharks, which contributed four players to Canada's team - Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Dan Boyle. Heatley, who was born in Freiberg, Germany when his father Murray played professionally there, has been Canada's most opportunistic scorer, the only player with a goal in every game.

Czech Republic v. Latvia

10 p.m. EST 

The records: Czech Republic 2-0-1-0 = 6 points, fifth overall. Latvia 0-0-0-3 = 0 points, 12th overall.

What's at stake: A chance to play fourth-seeded Finland in the quarter-finals. These two teams had never played in Olympic competition until 2010, but the Czech Republic handled the Latvians fairly easily in the preliminary round, racing off to a quick 3-0 lead and then coasting to a 5-2 victory.

Who to watch: Jaromir Jagr has been the Czech Republic's most dynamic player; it will be interesting to see if there are any lingering side effects from the bone-crushing hit leveled on him by Alex Ovechkin in Sunday's game against Russia. The Czech Republic's medal hopes likely rest on goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who has had an outstanding Olympics and assuming they get past the Latvians again, figures to be front and centre when they play against Finland and Miikka Kiprusoff.

 

Slovakia v. Norway

12 midnight. EST

The records: Slovakia 1-1-0-1 = 5 points, seventh overall. Norway 0-0-1-2 = 1 point, 11th overall.

What's at stake: A game against defending Olympic champion Sweden in the quarter-finals. Norway took a point away from Switzerland by forcing them to overtime in their final game of the preliminary round, but they will be the heavy underdogs against the improving Slovaks, who handed Russia its only defeat thus far (in a shootout) and romped against Latvia in the third game of the round robin.

Who to watch: Slovakia has surrendered just four goals in three games thus far, with Montreal Canadiens' goaltender Jaroslav Halak front and centre. Halak has played shut out hockey in six of his last seven periods of play, plus the overtime against Russia, permitting only one goal in that span. Slovakia's generational gamble, putting veterans such as Josef Stumpel and Pavol Demitra on the team, has paid huge dividends; the balance in their scoring beyond the two Marians, Hossa and Gaborik, makes them an interesting dark horse, assuming they get past the Norwegians with little difficulty.

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