Here's our last open thread of the preliminary round, with only one game that means a lot for the tournament going forward, but a few significant games to watch for Olympic qualification as well as tournament seeding. Let's break them down a bit more than usual:
Canada vs. Belarus (11:15 AM CEST, 5:15 AM EST)
Belarus is in really tough for a result here that will change their fate. With only three points earned in this tournament, Belarus has avoided relegation but is likely to see their World Ranking slip to 13th place, which would mean that they don't get to host one of the Olympic Qualification tournaments next year. Canada needs points here to secure top spot in the Helsinki Group, although we don't know how much of an advantage that really is with any of the United States, Finland, Slovakia, or possibly France as the team's quarterfinal opponent on Thursday.
Norway vs. Denmark (12:15 PM CEST, 6:15 AM EST)
Norway is in the quarterfinals, and will be facing either Sweden or Russia as a result. Pick your poison, Norway. The result is obviously a tremendous achievement, so it'll be interesting to see how the team reacts now that it knows this game is little more than academic. Denmark is also coming off a high, avoiding relegation after defeating Latvia yesterday for their first win of the tournament. A win here would clinch being the home team next February for the Olympic qualifiers, which would be significant especially since the NHL players Denmark relies on heavily at the World Championships won't be available for that event, so every advantage will be appreciated. A Denmark win could vault the team into 11th in the IIHF World Rankings, which would be a new high for the emerging hockey nation.
Slovakia vs. France (3:15 PM CEST, 9:15 AM EST)
Here's Tuesday's big show. Can France pull off the unthinkable and make the quarterfinal? France has had some flirtations with the best in the hockey world in the past but this would definitely be their best result in a generation if they could pull off the regulation win here. Slovakia won't be easy, with big Zdeno Chara's presence seemingly giving the fading power a much needed boost just in time to qualify for Sochi 2014. A point or three here would do just that, and then the team can focus on their potential quarterfinal opponents. Canada, Finland, or the USA await.
Czech Republic vs. Germany (4:15 PM CEST, 10:15 AM EST)
Martin Erat arrives just in time for this one for the Czechs, who might be able to choose their quarterfinal opponent if Norway beats Denmark. Russia is the top seed in their pool, while Sweden is the second seed, so we'll see if the Czechs have a preferred opponent or not. Germany has other concerns, though. The team will be looking to finish strong in order to qualify for the Olympics. It's been a poor showing for the team, particularly the 12-4 drubbing they took to Norway, and they should be looking to take something positive away from this experience which hasn't offered much of that to date.
United States vs. Switzerland (7:15 PM CEST, 1:15 PM EST)
The Americans have had a fairly positive tournament to date, beating the two favourites in their pool in Canada and Finland, although they lost to Slovakia and were the only team to not get a full three points against Kazakhstan, who finished 16th. They've been an exciting team to watch with a lot of young stars like Max Pacioretty and Justin Faulk leading the way. The Swiss' tournament has been dreadful, and now the team faces the very realistic prospect of not earning automatic qualification to the Olympics. A win here would do a lot to help their cause, but the highest they can finish is 10th in this tournament and a win today may not even ensure that.
Sweden vs. Latvia (8:15 PM CEST, 2:15 PM EST)
Why not close out this round with a packed house full of exuberant home fans with a lot of hard-partying Latvian fans who have made the ferry ride from Riga? Yeah, those Latvian fans are making headlines for their antics, but this is their last chance to see their team and let's hope they aren't too upset about that fact. The game is meaningless for Sweden, but for Latvia it's about a chance at hosting an Olympic qualifier, which I'm sure will be well attended.
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