Unlike Team Canada, the USA doesn’t get a gimme in their first game, as they have to face a team that is capable of pulling an upset in Slovakia.
SLOVAKIA vs UNITED STATES
7:30 AM EST
Here is how the teams match up:
GOALTENDING: Jonathan Quick will get the start for the US in the opener, ahead of incumbent Ryan Miller. Quick had a poor January for the Kings, uncharacteristic of his last couple of years. Slovakia will likely counter with Jaroslav Halak, whose St. Louis Blues are among the top teams in the NHL.
DEFENSE: The US is going with a very young blue line, with John Carlson, Justin Faulk and Cam Fowler among the group. Veterans Ryan Suter, Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik will provide stability and experience. Slovakia will be led by flag bearer Zdeno Chara and Andrej Sekera, but were dealt a blow when Lubomir Visnovsky was unable to make the trip.
FORWARDS: Young and fast would describe the USA group, with Maple Leafs teammates Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk among the forwards. Patrick Kane might be one of the 2 or 3 most talented players in the game and although they are not the strongest up the middle, there is plenty of speed and skill on the wings. Slovakia will rely a lot on Marian Hossa, his younger brother Marcel Hossa and Tomas Kopecky for offense. Look for a pair of Detroit youngsters, Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco to make their presence felt as well. Just like Visnovsky on the blue line, the Slovaks will greatly miss veteran Marian Gaborik, one of their most talented forwards.
This will be anything but a cakewalk for the Americans, and with a pivotal matchup against Russia on deck, they cannot look past the Slovaks.
PREDICTION: Halak will keep this one relatively close, but in the end the Americans are too deep. USA 4-2.