USA face Czech Republic, Alex Ovechkin could return

Peter Laviolette’s Americans finished a distant second to Russia in Group B, but the USA largely struggled and looked like they would battle to reach the last eight.

The USA opened the tournament with a 6-1 thrashing of Belarus but their next four wins were hard-fought against Switzerland, Kazakhstan, Finland and Germany.

The Calgary Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau and the Nashville Predators’ Seth Jones have been the standouts for the USA with 10 and nine points respectively.

Both have scored two goals, while Gaudreau has provided eight assists and Jones seven.

On Thursday, they meet a Czech side who battled to third place in Group A.

New Jersey Devils veteran Jaromir Jagr has scored four times and set up three others to be their key player heading into the play-off stages.

Elsewhere, tournament favourites Russia are expected to comfortably beat France.

Russia star Alex Ovechkin, who has three goals and six assists, could make his return from a knee injury for the clash.

Ovechkin missed Russia’s win over Belarus on Tuesday ” their seventh win in as many games ” after hurting his knee in their victory over Germany.

Russia forward Sergei Plotnikov said his team’s victory against Belarus was far from their most polished performance of the tournament.

“Both goalkeepers played really well but at times we were disorganised and didn’t do so well, plus they were strong on defence,” he said.

“But the chance to win and advance to the quarter-finals with seven wins in seven games was a motivating factor. We are proud and we want to win. That’s why we’re here.”

Canada go up against Finland with the winner to face either the USA or the Czech Republic, while Sweden meet Belarus to face the victors of the Russia-France quarter-final.

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