Olympics

Switzerland-Latvia Preview

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Although Switzerland struggled to get going offensively in the preliminary rounds, Jonas Hiller and the defense in front of him have the team feeling optimistic heading into the elimination bracket.

Now the Swiss are hoping to put it all together in the qualification round Tuesday night against Latvia, which has had trouble keeping opponents out of the net.

With a quarterfinal matchup against undefeated Canada on the line, the Swiss aren't likely to look past a Latvia team that gave them everything they could handle in the Olympic opener.

Switzerland's Simon Bodenmann produced only the team's second goal in three games Saturday, which was enough to back Hiller on the way to his second tournament shutout in the final preliminary round game.

The standout goalie finished with 26 saves in an impressive 1-0 victory over Jaromir Jagr and the Czech Republic, giving the Swiss a second-place finish in Group C with a 2-1 record.

''It was great to have these two wins and be second in the group and then maybe get a little easier opponent (in the quarters),'' Hiller said. ''At the same time, I don't think anybody would be satisfied if we could say after the tournament, `Well, yeah, we beat the Czechs, and that's kind of it.' For us, the most important is the next game.''

Hiller, the starter for the NHL-leading Anaheim Ducks, has stopped all 47 shots he has faced in his two starts in Sochi. Reto Berra turned away 30 of 31 shots, but didn't receive any support in his lone start - a 1-0 loss to Sweden on Friday.

''Everybody is doing an unbelievable job in our own end,'' Hiller said. ''Sacrificing, blocking shots, blocking guys out, clearing rebounds. It makes life easier as a goalie. Same time, I really hope at some point we find a way to score more than just one goal a game, so that takes off a little pressure off the goalies.''

Simon Moser was credited with a goal that caromed off Latvian defenseman Georgijs Pujacs in front of the net with 7.9 seconds left, lifting Switzerland to a 1-0 win Wednesday.

Hiller finished with 21 saves to blank Latvia, which is led by forward Janis Sprukts (two goals, one assist) and lone NHL player Zemgus Girgensons (one goal). The Swiss, in contrast, have eight players from the league - including former All-Star Hiller.

Though Latvia goalie Edgars Masalskis played well in the first meeting with 38 saves, he's allowed four goals on 39 shots since. Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Kristers Gudlevskis hasn't fared better, giving up five goals on 30 shots.

Since dropping the opener to the Swiss, Latvia has been outscored 9-5 in losses to the Czechs and Sweden en route to a last-place finish in Group C. Latvia will try to advance past the qualification round for the first time in four Olympics after placing 12th in the last two and ninth in 2002.

"We feel like we have some really good players," said Latvia coach Ted Nolan, whose squad has been outshot 108-64. "I wouldn't say it would be an upset. I would say we have a chance."

The Swiss hope to advance to the quarterfinals for the third consecutive Winter Games.

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