LATVIA vs. SWITZERLAND
When: Tuesday, Noon ET (MSNBC)
Where: Bolshoy Ice Dome
What's at stake: This is a rematch of each country's opening game at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, only this time everything is on the line. Latvia was poised to pull an upset against Switzerland on Wednesday, but Swiss forward Simon Moser scored off the skate of Latvia defenceman Georgijs Pujacs with 7.9 seconds left in regulation for a 1-0 win.
Latvia: Group play failed to produce the upset Latvia was looking for, but this is one final chance to make some noise and avenge a heartbreaking loss in a game where Edgars Masalskis stopped the first 38 shots he faced. The following two games against the Czech Republic resulted in two-goal defeats in which the offense came around but the team gave up nine goals.
Among the questions for Latvia in this game is whether coach Ted Nolan of the Buffalo Sabres will go back to Masalskis after giving Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Kristers Gudlevskis the start Saturday in a 5-3 loss to Sweden. A goal by Sabres rookie Zemgus Girgensons pulled Latvia to within one early in the third but former NHL player Martins Karsums was denied on a breakaway with a chance to tie the score and Gudlevskis gave up the fifth goal moments later.
"This was my first Olympics and I kind of felt that we would be overpowered," forward Janus Sprukts, who scored a power-play goal Saturday, told the IIHF website. "But now I think we can play with any team. We are very happy we've played evenly with all our opponents and will be looking ahead confidently."
Switzerland: Defence and goaltending have the Swiss poised to build off their silver-medal performance at the 2013 World Championship, but more offense will be needed if they expect to end this tournament with bronze or anything better around their necks.
Switzerland played nothing but 1-0 games in Group C competition, winning the rubber match Saturday on the strength of a Simon Bodenmann goal and 26 saves from Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller. Moser has the only other goal the Swiss have scored in Sochi, while Hiller hasn't allowed a goal in two starts. Calgary Flames goalie Reto Berra was nearly flawless in a loss to Sweden.
One thing is for certain -- whether Switzerland took Latvia lightly in their initial game, that isn't going to happen Tuesday in a win-or-go-home situation. The Swiss understand that an unfortunate bounce in the other direction last Wednesday could have changed the entire course of their tournament.
"The gap is closing," Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter told the IIHF website. "There are no easy games out there anymore."
What's next: The winner advances to face Canada, the defending Olympic champion, in action Wednesday. Switzerland beat Canada 2-0 in the 2006 Torino Games, then put a scare into them during group play at the 2010 Vancouver Games before losing 3-2 in a shootout.
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