Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
Today begins the march to gold and it's do or die for the eight remaining teams in the IIHF World Men's Hockey Championships in Russia. Although Team USA lost to Slovakia in their final Group-B preliminary round game, they did so in overtime and barely squeaked into today's quarterfinal matchup vs. the Czech Repbulic, the top team in Group-A.
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe and winger Hudson Fasching will hit the ice for the Americans today for the 9:15 AM EST start while center Ryan O'Reilly and forward Sam Reinhart will play for Team Canada at 1:15 PM EST as the defending champs take on Team Sweden.
McCabe has been anchoring the back-end for Team USA and hits the quarterfinals with a goal, an assist and a plus-1 rating in five games. The 6'0" 210 lb. defender from Eau Claire, Wisconsin was injured in the first period of the first game vs. Team Canada and proceeded to miss the next two games but has come back strong becoming the Americans steadiest defenseman. Fasching has been placed in a fourth-line role and has one assist and a minus-3 rating in seven games.
Team Canada boasts a wealth of offensive talent but O'Reilly has staked his claim as the best two-way center on the team. In seven games he has two goals and four assists with a plus-5 rating. Reinhart, who scored 23 goals for the Sabres as a rookie, is playing on the fourth line and has two assists in seven games.
It's been very quiet in the Sabres front office these days, but the wheels are churning as GM Tim Murray and company are looking to add to the team, especially on the blueline.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman in his 30 Thoughts, has the Buffalo Sabres in on Czech defenseman Michal Kempny. Friedman wrote that "Kempny has some outstanding possession numbers. Buffalo, Chicago and Vancouver are among his most serious pursuers."
Kempny, who wears No. 6 for the Czechs, is a 6'0" 194 lbs., left-handed d-man who has been playing in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia. The 25 yr. old had 21 points (5+16) in 59 games for Omsk Avangard last season.
Keep an eye on No. 6.
One more quick note. Despite the discrepancy in the standings, Team USA beat the Czech Republic to win last year's bronze medal.