@$@ WATCH NHL LIVE %@#%# United States vs. Slovakia %#@%$ LIVE

These two teams have punched their quarterfinal tickets and this is simply for positioning. Switzerland would need a blowout win to have a chance to avoid Canada in the quarterfinal, but the Czech Republic could finish in second or third in the group. Both of these teams had trouble against Belarus, and the Czech’s tournament-opening win against Russia is the difference between the two teams. The game will be on TSN 1/3 and RDS2 in Canada. NHL Network in the US will also show the game.

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United States vs. Slovakia (6:30 p.m. ET;

USA

A year removed from a thrilling 5-4 shootout victory against Canada, Team USA is searching for a second straight gold medal, this time with the tournament taking place in Buffalo, New York.

The United States have been one of the strongest teams in the World Juniors in recent years. Since ending Canada’s five-year gold medal streak in 2010, the Americans have won gold three times in the last eight years, as well as an additional two bronze medal finishes.

The Americans get a spectacular venue for their rematch against Canada, as the neighbouring nations will play the tournament’s first ever outdoor game at New Era Field. Despite the grand stage, it will be a vital contest for the Americans, especially against perhaps their biggest threat to repeat. Even beyond Canada, Group A appears to be the most grueling. Finland, Denmark and Slovakia make up the rest of the opponents the US will face during the preliminary round, all of which could be dark horse competitors.

Strengths

In general, replacing skaters from last year’s squad such as Clayton Keller and Charlie McAvoymay seem like a tough task. However, despite having only seven potential returnees from last year’s team, head coach Bob Motzko’s squad boasts an immense pool of talent to pick from, including one of the deepest forward groups in the tournament.

Edmonton Oilers 2017 first-round pick Kailer Yamamoto and Ottawa Senators 2016 first-rounder Logan Brown project to be the top two forwards on this American team, and could share the spotlight next to Buffalo Sabres first-round selection Casey Mittelstadt on a potential first line for the U.S.

Slovakia

After a disappointing showing at the last World Junior Championship, Team Slovakia will look to bounce back in Buffalo. The Slovaks were eliminated in 2017 following a crushing 8-3 loss to Sweden, bowing out of the tournament after only playing five games. Unfortunately, luck does not seem to favour this year’s team either.

The 2018 squad looks set to face an uphill battle. Stuck in the more competitive Group A, the Slovaks will have to contend with perennial favourites Team Canada and Team USA, while also fending off a determined Team Finland and an upstart Team Denmark.

Not all hope is lost however, as Slovakia has the potential to emerge as a surprise contender. If returning forwards Adam Ruzicka and Marian Studenic can demonstrate some offensive prowess, while goaltender Dávid Hrenák holds down the fort in net, the Slovaks have as good a chance as any of the lower clubs to sneak into the medal round.

Strengths

Team Slovakia will be led up front by forwards Ruzicka and Studenic. Having played on the 2017 squad, neither player is a stranger to the tournament.

Ruzicka has put up 39 points in 34 games with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting this season, scoring 20 goals and adding 19 assists. Meanwhile, Marian Studenic has scored 30 points in 32 games with the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, tallying 13 goals and 17 assists.