BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA - MAY 03: Marian Gaborik (R) of Slovakia celebrate with team mate Marian Hossa (L) after he scores his team's 2nd goal during the IIHF World Championship group A match between Slovakia and Russia at Orange Arena on May 3, 2011 in Bratislava, Slovakia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Four more qualification round games take place today, highlighted by the USA vs. Canada, and the hosts Slovakia vs. Czech Republic.
The Germans have already knocked off Slovakia and Russia so far, and look to continue their giant-killing reputation when they take on Finland today. Germany has gone with a 'score by committee' approach, backed by excellent team defence and goaltending from Dennis Endras. Finland, meanwhile, have been led offensively by Jarkko Immonen and Mikael Granlund, while being very stingy defensively, giving up few shots. This game is more important for Finland, but Germany will have wrapped up a quarterfinal spot with a regulation win here.
Canada/USA has become the key international rivalry of the 21st century, but at the IIHF World Championships it really hasn't been all that memorable. These are very young teams for both sides, with Canada being led by the likes of Jordan Eberle, John Tavares and Jeff Skinner offensively. For the Americans, they counter with Derek Stepan, Nick Palmieri, and NCAA player Craig Smith, plus Cam Fowler playing a key role from the blueline. Many of these players have experienced the Canada vs. USA rivalry at either the U20 or U18 level, and this will be their first taste of it at the senior level.
The crowd in Bratislava will be rocking for this one, as the home side needs a win desperately. The breakup of Czechoslovakia was one of the most amicable in human history, and this rivalry has never really developed a nasty side, but with the Slovak desperation don't rule anything out. The Czechs offence has been rolling so far, led by Milan Michalek, Michael Frolik, Martin Havlat, Patrik Elias and Roman Cervenka all with three points in three games. Ondrej Pavelec has been dominant in goal so far, unlike his counterpart Jaroslav Halak for Slovakia. They'll need Halak to be better, but Slovakia will also need more offensively out of Marion Gaborik and Marian Hossa. Ladislav Nagy and Miroslav Satan lead Slovakia in scoring so far.
Every game in this group is important, so Sweden can't afford to take the surprising French team lightly. Sweden has already been beaten by Norway in this tournament, so don't expect any such underestimating in this one. The Tre Kronor has been led by Patrik Berglund, David Petrasek, and Robert Nilsson offensively, while Viktor Fästh has taken over as the team's go-to goalie after Erik Ersberg faltered against Norway. France has relied on a team commitment to defense, while getting a lot of production out of 6'5" Czech Extraliga forward Sacha Treille. Ultimately, Cristobal Huet is the team's last line of defence and he has been excellent so far in his first national team action since 2008.
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