International competition is great. This is a terrific tournament. But weighed against a run at the NHL playoffs for the Dallas Stars? Cancel the thing right now as far as I'm concerned.
One of those things threatened the other earlier today as rookie Valeri Nichushkin took a puck to the foot while Russia barely limped past Slovakia, and left the game for a while in the second period.
And now the @DallasStars Nichushkin is limping. He is being looked at on the bench.— Dmitry Chesnokov (@dchesnokov) February 16, 2014
He would return in the third, thankfully, and his presence on lower lines was a factor in wearing Slovakia down in the late stages but the home team needed a shootout to dispatch one of the decidedly weaker sisters of the tournament.
Nichushkin figured to be a scratch when the tournament began, but since getting into the first game he's given them every reason to leave him in, despite the struggles of the team overall under the pressure of an expectant home nation. National media has started to take notice in Sochi...
Back to hockey now, meant to say this yesterday but have been blown away by Valeri Nichushkin. Powerful strides. A beast.— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) February 16, 2014
The United States dispatched Slovenia with facility and Austria defeated Norway to earn themselves a slightly better draw in the quarter finals.
In the real nail-biter of the day Canada let Finland take them all the way to overtime before Drew Doughty scored his fourth goal of the tournament to make his team's road much easier.
The Americans and Canadians are on a semi-finals collision course now, and cannot repeat the gold medal game of four years ago. Such a matchup would be on Friday morning CST.
Despite a better ranking than Canada the United States could potentially have to deal with a so-far underachieving Czech Republic team, while Babcock's bunch will get a much more automatic result against Latvia or Switzerland.
Overall Ranking Preliminary Round:
7. Czech Republic
Qualification Playoff games Feb. 18:
Russia vs. Norway
Switzerland vs. Latvia
Czech Republic vs. Slovakia
Slovenia vs. Austria
* The times and venues TBD
Quarterfinal games Feb. 19:
Sweden vs. winner SLO-AUT
USA vs. winner CZE-SVK
Canada vs. winner SUI-LAT
Finland vs. winner RUS-NOR