USA-Slovakia Preview, Pre-Game Links

After a day off, Team USA returns to action against a Slovakian team that is coming off an emotional overtime win against Germany last night. Despite being out shot 34-17 through the first two periods, the Slovaks earned a 2-1 decision when Marek Hrivik converted on a slick feed from Richard Panik at 3:39 of the extra frame.

The story of the game, however, was Dominik Riecicky, who made 47 saves and may have earned a start against Team USA tonight. The Slovakian tender even turned aside a penalty shot in regulation. After seeing Finland goaltender Joni Ortio bring his best game to the table Sunday, Team USA can expect another hot goalie tonight.

However, the opposing ‘tender isn’t all Team USA has to worry about. News broke earlier this afternoon that both Jeremy Morin and Brock Nelson are out for tonight’s contest and are still considered day-to-day. That’s going to force other players, particularly the returnees, to step up their level of play.

Jerry D’Amigo is one that has already said he’ll need to be one of those players. There will also be pressure on Team USA’s three centers, Drew Shore, Nick Bjugstad and Charlie Coyle. Each may find themselves with new linemates at different times tonight. You might even see a few guys like Ryan Bourque or Kyle Palmieri head to the circle a few times. That’s purely speculation on my part, though.

With Morin and Nelson out, Team USA’s bench gets short, quick. No word yet on lines, but we can expect to see something on USA Hockey’s World Juniors blog a little before the game, I’m sure. Mitchell Callahan didn’t see the ice a ton against Finland, but he’ll have to be ready to go tonight. If the U.S. is in need of energy and toughness, he’s got a whole lot of both. Hopefully he can bring some of that edge I thought Team USA lacked against the Finns.

Let’s take a look at tonight’s opponent, shall we?

Slovakia possesses some good speed and skill up front and decent size on the blue line. I’d expect a similar defensive game to what the Finns brought on Sunday. Lots of clogging the lanes and a strong net-front presence.

Richard Panik was a difference maker in last night’s win, scoring a goal and adding an assist.  He was always expected to be a go-to guy for this Slovakian team and also serves as its captain. Team USA will have to keep a close eye on him. If Panik can continue his solid play, he makes Slovakia much more dangerous.

Martin Marincin, the big defenseman (6-4, 190) currently with Prince George in the WHL, had four shots last night and finished with a plus-1 rating. He’s nasty when he wants to be and will try to make life miserable for U.S. forwards cutting across the middle or digging in the corners. Team USA’s offensive unit can’t back down.

With Riecicky likely between the pipes, Team USA just has to pepper him with shots. I’d imagine he’s a little tired from all the work he got last night in 60-plus minutes of hockey. No disrespect to the Germans, but I think the U.S. has a few more guys with that killer instinct to find the net (SEE: Goals one and two from the Finland game).  As good as he was against the Germans, Riecicky has to be that much better tonight.

So here are my keys to victory for Team USA heading into tonight’s game:

– Establish a physical game early to shut down and tire out Slovakia’s top offensive talent.

– Make the Slovakian goaltender work for every save.

– Good leadership from the WJC veterans needs to make up for the loss of Morin and Nelson.

Here are some more links to get you ready for tonight’s match up against Slovakia:

Mike Morreale of NHL.com really gives you a great idea into who Jack Campbell is and why his teammates can be confident when playing in front of him. Fear not, Dallas fans, you’ve got a real gem.

Keith Allain told USAHockey.com that Team USA will look to pressure an overworked Slovakian team. There’s also some good insight on Slovakia’s style of play.

Team USA GM Jim Johannson tells USA Today’s Kevin Allen he’d like to see more creativity out of the players within Keith Allain’s structured system.

IIHF.com takes a closer look at Jerry D’Amigo.

It appears that Emerson Etem’s unfortunate tweet kind of took the Buffalo media and Twitter army by storm. Etem stepped up and apologized for the gaffe earlier today and wants to put it behind him.

Jess Rubenstein of The Prospect Park came to Etem’s defense in light of last night’s backlash.

Sunday’s win has a little more shine to it after Finland downed Switzerland 4-0 today.

Local businesses are liking the flow of new customers thanks to the World Juniors and are working together to make the most of it.

Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News takes a look at how the World Juniors is being followed in the Dallas Stars locker room.

Lastly, Justin Bourne of Puck Daddy has a fun take on nationality in pro locker rooms during the World Juniors.

Enjoy tonight’s game and stay close to The United States of Hockey for more news and notes throughout the week.

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About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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