Slovakia-Sweden Preview

BY foxsports • February 24, 2010

Having Henrik Lundqvist in goal has allowed Sweden to be much more confident in its bid for a second straight Olympic gold medal.

Lundqvist looks for a third straight shutout Wednesday night in a quarterfinal matchup against Slovakia, which returns to the ice one night after avoiding what would have been perhaps the biggest upset of the tournament.

A three-time Vezina Trophy finalist with the New York Rangers, Lundqvist has yet to allow a goal in Vancouver. He made 21 saves in a 2-0 win over Germany on Feb. 17, then turned aside 20 shots Sunday to beat Finland 3-0 in a rematch of the 2006 gold-medal game in Turin.

Backup Jonas Gustavsson was in goal for the Swedes' 4-2 win over Belarus on Friday.

"I don't see us as the No. 1 team, definitely not," Lundqvist said. "But we're definitely out there, and we can compete against anybody. We feel good right now, but when it comes down to one game, the past really doesn't matter."

Loui Eriksson scored power-play goals in each of the first two periods against the Finns. Eriksson leads Sweden with three goals.

Nicklas Backstrom also scored his first goal after totaling four assists in his first two games for coach Bengt Ake Gustafsson's club.

The Swedes are expected to have forward Patric Hornqvist available after he was checked in the head by Joni Pitkanen, who has been suspended for Finland's quarterfinal game against the Czech Republic.

Gustafsson said "everything's good," after watching Hornqvist during a 75-minute practice Tuesday.

Hornqvist leads the Nashville Predators with 23 goals and is tied for the team lead with 37 points, but has no points in three games at the Olympics.

Slovakia is coming off a 4-3 victory Tuesday in a qualification game over Norway, which had given up 19 goals while losing its first three contests.

Jaroslav Halak surrendered a goal with one second to play in the second period that tied the score at 3. Miroslav Satan put the Slovaks back on top midway through the third.

"We let them back in the game after we had a 3-1 lead," Satan said after Slovakia had a 40-19 edge in shots. "Guys thought it would be easy. We let them back in the game and made it difficult on ourselves."

The Slovaks took advantage of an early five-minute power-play assessed when Lubos Bartecko suffered a concussion and lacerated head after being checked by Ole-Kristian Tollefson.

"It was a very unfair attack on his head," Slovakia coach Jan Filc said. "He's OK, but he's not supposed to play (Wednesday)."

Teammate Marian Hossa agreed.

"That was one of the worst (hits) I ever saw," said Hossa, who was leveled with a similar blow that forced him to miss the Chicago Blackhawks' final game before the Olympics.

Michal Handzus and Marian Gaborik scored to give the Slovaks a 2-0 lead. Hossa and Gaborik are in a four-way tie for the team lead with two goals.

"(Lundqvist) has to have a bad day, that's all," said Gaborik, Lundqvist's teammate with the Rangers who has a team-high 35 goals this season. "He's one of the top three goalies in the world and in front of him are the defending Olympic champions. We have to play the best game of our lives."

Wednesday's winner will meet Russia or Canada in the semifinals Friday.


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