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World Championships Update

After two weeks of playing hockey it's finally time for the games to take on some meaning at the World Hockey Championships.  The Quarter-finals begin tomorrow at 1PM Eastern time when the Czech Republic take on Sweden in Quebec City.  This game will be of interest to Sabres fans because of Ales Kotalik, and if anyone is still interested in Jiri Novotny, both players should be in the lineup for the Czech Republic.  Kotalik has scored five goals to go along with one assist in six games played.  Three of his five goals have been scored on the power play.  I'm well aware that there are people who would like to see him move on to another team but how would Buffalo replace him on the power play?  It makes sense to keep him here for the final year of his contract and see what happens next off-season.  This game will be a rematch of Sweden's 5-3 win over the Czech Republic on Sunday.  Kotalik scored a power play goal in that game and he was a minus two.

The winner of the Czech-Sweden game will take on the winner of the other Quarter-final game that will be played in Quebec City.  The Russian team finished first in their side of the bracket and will take on the fourth played Swiss.  Switzerland went 3-0 in the preliminary round before coming back to reality in the qualifying round.  This game will also be a rematch of a game that took place on Sunday, the Russians won the game 5-3 but they had a 4-0 lead and let it slip away.  The Swiss team will certainly look to build off their third period performance from Sunday to try to pull off the upset.

In the other side of the bracket the games will continue to take place in Halifax Nova Scotia.  The first quarter-final matchup will be the first place Canadian team taking on an over-matched team from Norway.  Norway is extremely pleased with their overall performance in the tournament so far although their last game was a 9-1 loss to the United States.  Norway and Canada played last Thursday and Norway gave Canada a huge scare.  The game was tied 1-1 until the final couple minutes of the third period when Rick Nash scored to give the Canadian team the victory.  Norway hopes to play a similar game but I expect the Canadians to be ready for them this time.  It's tough for a team like Norway to compete with an all star team like Canada twice in the same tournament.

The final game is the game everyone is talking about.  The United States and Finland will conclude the quarter-finals tomorrow night.  On Sunday Finland beat the U.S. team in one of the most controversial games of the tournament.  It all started when the video replay judge allowed a Finnish goal to count although replays clearly showed it going through the side of the net.  The was eerily reminiscent of when John Leclair scored through the side of the net against the Sabres in the playoffs.  I clearly remember how upset I was when that happened to the Sabres so luckily I wasn't watching live when it occurred on Sunday.  Their was plenty of physicality in the game as well including a benches clearing brawl at the end of the game that resulted in a couple of suspensions for both teams.

Sabres players who are still playing in the tournament:

Max Afinogenov- Russia
Dmitri Kalinin- Russia
Ales Kotalik- Czech Republic
Derek Roy- Canada
Jason Pominville- USA
Drew Stafford- USA