BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA - MAY 07: Tuomo Ruutu (L) of Finland celebrate with team mate Petri Vehanen (R) after the IIHF World Championship qualification match between Finland and Slovakia at Orange Arena on May 7, 2011 in Bratislava, Slovakia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Six games today, with each of the qualification round teams wrapping up their schedule. We already know seven of the eight quarterfinalists, but we only know for sure which seed the Czechs will be (first in Group E). It's also the last day of action in Kosice, as all the playoff action will take place in Bratislava. Here's a look at today's action:
Denmark is trying to stay positive about their stay in Bratislava, even though they didn't equal last year's quarterfinal berth and had their rooms broken into during their only win so far. For the hosts Slovaks this is one time to get the fans, who booed them off the ice after their last loss which eliminated them from the quarterfinals, a little something to cheer about. This is simply a placement game in the IIHF's eyes... although we'll have to figure that all out when all the games are done.
France is playing for pride and placement, but Norway can secure the final quarterfinal spot with a single point here, and can leapfrog the USA into 3rd place with a regulation win (pending the result of USA-Switzerland). France has already achieved a lot for their program at this tournament, but everyone loves to play the role of spoiler. Mathis Olimb of Norway, meanwhile, will look to pad his lead in the tournament scoring race. He currently has one goal and eight assists.
Both teams are headed to the quarterfinal, so this is the final test game before the real action begins for them. However, Russia might be looking to avoid a matchup with either of Canada or Sweden in the first round, and a regulation win will ensure they won't finish last in the group, and put them momentarily in second place in the group. Similarly, for Finland, finishing second would have them play one of the USA or Norway, which is probably more desirable than Sweden or Canada. Tuomo Ruutu has delivered this tournament to date for Finland, while Russia is now turning to Alex Ovechkin to deliver them the gold.
Switzerland will have to turn quickly from being France fans in the early Kosice game to focusing on trying to beat the USA. Fate was taken out of their own hands with yesterday's loss to Sweden, which the Americans celebrated as it clinched a quarterfinal berth for them. Derek Stepan has been the USA's star performer, while the Swiss' stars have been their goaltenders: both Leonardo Genoni and Tobias Stephan have given their team a chance, but their scorers have let them down.
The Czechs will likely be resting some of their stars after a tough game against the Russians, and they will be quite comfortable putting their undefeated record on the line in doing so. Winning would be a bonus for the team, not a requirement. The Germans have had a great tournament so far, but they'll want to make sure they don't finish last in their group. That fate could await them, or the possibility could be eliminated before they even hit the ice. Patrik Elias has been the Czechs top producer, but Tomas Plekanec has been heating up of late centering Jaromir Jagr. The Germans are definitely led by the goaltending of Dennis Endras, and count on an offense by committee approach.
In some ways, this game doesn't matter much. Both teams will face one of Finland, Germany or Russia depending on how the games in Bratislava go. On the other hand, it's Canada vs. Sweden, and there will be pride on the line here. The winner finishes first in the Kosice group, the loser places second. Viktor Fästh has stopped 113 of 115 shots so far this tournament for Sweden, while Patrik Berglund has five goals. Canada is being led by the young star John Tavares, but in their last win vs. Norway it was the older stars like Rick Nash and Jason Spezza who were leading the way.
Check out the comments for updates and discussion. As always, I won't be available to comment on the very early games... too early for where I'm from!