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IIHF World Championships: Time Running out on Denmark, Latvia, and France

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We're into the final two days of the IIHF World Championships, and there isn't a lot left to settle (but how about those Norwegians). Perhaps the biggest story in the games remaining is not who is going to make the quarterfinals, as there are only two teams outside the top four in their group that have a slight chance of making it, but whether Denmark can avoid being relegated with two games to play. Denmark has been in the top group of the IIHF World Championships since 2003, but a shocking OT loss to Italy in the tournament's second game has put the emerging hockey nation (and potential 2017 host nation) in a state of peril for now. They definitely aren't giving off the impression of a team that deserves the fate (they haven't lost a game by more than two goals) but without a win against either Latvia or Norway today or tomorrow the country would find itself skipping the top level for at least a year. And Norway just put a 12 spot up against Germany yesterday, who Denmark lost 2-1 to on Saturday.

Frederik Andersen, Denmark's star young goaltender, had an off week at the worst time for his country, but can redeem himself with a win if he gets that opportunity (backup Simon Nielsen looked good in his one appearance). The team is heavily reliant on their NHL talent, and one wonders how much energy players like Philip Larsen, Lars Eller and Frans Nielsen will have tomorrow if the team can't get a win against Latvia on Monday.

Game Team 1 Team 2 City CEST Start EST Start
47 Belarus France Helsinki 3:15 PM 9:15 AM
48 Latvia Denmark Stockholm 4:15 PM 10:15 AM
49 Kazakhstan Finland Helsinki 7:15 PM 1:15 PM
50 Italy Russia Stockholm 8:15 PM 2:15 PM

France and Latvia are the two countries currently outside the Top 4 in their group that still have a shot of reaching there. Latvia sits at 6 points, and has two games to play with Norway and the Czech Republic sitting at 10 and 11 points each, both within reach. France sits at 6 points with two games to play and Slovakia, their opponent tomorrow, is the team they are trying to catch at 12 points. If France were to win today against Belarus in regulation, they could reach the quarterfinals by beating Slovakia in regulation as well, which would be a tremendous feat for the country.

So Denmark faces the prospect of avoiding relegation playing two highly motivated teams that are similar in ability to them. Latvia can still reach the quarterfinals, and if Latvia were to beat Denmark, Norway would need points against Denmark tomorrow to make sure Latvia couldn't catch them (Latvia's final game is the preliminary round closer against Sweden tomorrow).

From Game 49 and on, we enter the final games of the preliminary round for each team. Kazakhstan will try and avoid relegation with a win against Finland, who have clinched a quarterfinal berth, while Italy will try and do what no one else has been able to: get a point off of Russia. Italy is, of course, currently in 7th place, but if Denmark were to beat Latvia today they would need to at least get points off of Russia in order to have a chance of staying in the top group (I won't outline every scenario here). Russia has already clinched the first seed in the Stockholm group.

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