Article written by Ryan Hale - Community Contributor
Team USA to Take on Slovakia
Unfortunately for you United States hockey fans you have to wait until the second day of men’s action before your team takes the ice to battle a tough Slovakia squad. Pretty much everyone in this group will be focused on Russia and the United States however this Slovakia club is nothing to ignore. They come into this tournament boasting 14 NHL players of their own two of those being solid goalies in Peter Budaj and Jaroslav Halak.
Expect the Slovak’s to come out playing hard as they always do and trying to take the American’s to task for sleeping on them. If the USA team takes this game for granted even for a little then they may find themselves behind the eight ball early. You can’t sleep on a team that contains the likes of Marian Hossa, Tomas Jurco and Zdeno Chara.
Players to Watch
Patrick Kane: Having taken off the last Blackhawks game before the break to deal with the death of his grandfather Kane will likely be rested and ready to take on the world. Look for him to utilize his offensive prowless to help power past the Slovaks.
Marian Hossa: After having a somewhat slow start to the NHL season Hossa has really picked it up over the last month or so. In his last five games with the Blackhawks he has two goals and four assists. If the Slovak team is to surprise anyone they are going to need him to be one of the key cogs in the offensive machine.
The USA Goalie: As I touched on in my Team USA Preview Dan Bylsma has been extremely tight lipped about who will be starting in net for the United States. The only thing I can say for certain is with the depth they have on the bench, don’t be surprised if the starter is on a short leash. Bylsma will need to figure out who he will want to start against a high powered Russian team who they play next.
Keys to the Game
United States: Starting strong and finishing stronger. No matter how good you are you cannot let another team like the Slovak's hang with you for very long. Give an underdog team an chance to stay around and feel like they belong on that sheet of ice with you and you’re only asking for trouble.
Slovakia: Help out your goaltender. Everyone knows the US is a high powered offense and whoever starts in net will probably see their fair share of shots against. If this Slovak team stands any chance of winning they are going to need to clean up the loose pucks around the net and block as many shots as they can. Playing a team game will be key.
In the end I think that the USA will be able to take the win in their first Olympic match up in Sochi. They won’t be able to rest though as their biggest test will loom next in Russia.
Note, game time and more info can be found at our schedule!