Photo credit: John Cortez/AP
Despite losing their preliminary finale 5-0 to the United States, Slovenia enters their qualifying round matchup with a fair deal of momentum. While a 1-2-0 record would be disappointing for most countries, that mark is good enough for the Slovenes who are making the most of their Olympic debut in men's hockey.
The only question mark for Team Slovenia entering their game against Austria is the status of Anze Kopitar. The lone NHLer on the Slovenian squad left Sunday's game against the US after getting hit in the stomach with a puck. He did not return to the game, instead going to the hospital for blood tests. The word is that Kopitar is suffering from a stomach bug. While that is good news considering it's nothing that will affect his hockey career, stomach bugs are never fun and hopefully No. 11 will be in the lineup on Tuesday.
In addition, expect Robert Kristan to be back in the Slovene goal. The netminder was given Sunday's game off but Slovenia could have used him en route to their 5-0 defeat. Nevertheless, Kristan is well-rested and ready to go.
Austria meanwhile boasts an identical 1-2-0 record entering the qualifying round. Before defeating Norway in their preliminary finale, the Austrians, led by soon-to-be free agent Tomas Vanek, lost to Finland and Canada by a total score of 14-4. While Slovenia certainly isn't regarded in the same breath as the aforementioned, they are nonetheless talented and can surprise anyone - just ask Slovakia.
It should be a great matchup between the Slovenes and Austrians as both countries fight for a spot in the medal round. While the winner gets the unenviable task of facing Sweden, the opportunity is still worthwhile as neither of these two nations will look past the task at hand.
Enjoy the game!