Olympic Hockey Qualification Round Preview, Bracket: Canada Fights For Its Life

Elimination play finally begins today as the bottom eight teams in the tournament fight for their Olympic lives and four quarterfinals spots. Meanwhile, the United States, Sweden, Finland and Russia will sit back and watch the show and wait for an opponent. Below, a look at today's matchups and an updated bracket, courtesy of SBN's On the Forecheck.

Today's Games

3:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM PT: #8 Switzerland vs #9 Belarus

Broadcast details: Live coverage on USA Network and NBCOlympics.com

The first game of the day is also likely to be the closest and most entertaining. The winner gets the honor of moving on to face the USA tomorrow, but first they'll see each other in this qualification round matchup. The Swiss have surprised a few people in this tournament, by playing USA tough in the first game and taking Canada to a shootout.

They're led by goaltender Jonas Hiller, and because of the simple fact that he's in their goal, they have the edge in this one. Belarus is a tough team as well though, and this should be a solid game with a lot of strong defensive play. Both teams have played well and both teams have played poorly. In an elimination game, expect both teams to come out strong and put on a show

7:30 PM ET / 4:30 PM PT: #6 Canada vs #11 Germany

Broadcast details: Live coverage begins at puck drop on NBCOlympics.com and at 8 PM ET / 5 PM PT on CNBC

Much has been written about Canada's now tougher route to the gold medal, thanks to their loss to the Americans on Sunday. The long and winding road begins today at Canada Hockey Place with a match up against pesky Germany.

Germany played Sweden tough in their first game of the tournament but didn't look nearly as good in a 5-0 loss to Finland and a 5-4 loss to Belarus. If they play like they did against Sweden -- a stifling defensive outing with tons of pressure on the Swedish attackers -- they might have a chance against the high flying Canadians. If they play like they did in the other games, this won't even be a contest.

The winner will see Russia in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

10:00 PM ET / 7:30 PM PT: #5 Czech Republic vs #12 Latvia

Broadcast details: Live coverage on CNBC and NBCOlympics.com

The Czech Republic gets the luck draw of being the top team in this qualification round, meaning they get a nice little matchup with the worst team in the tournament, Latvia. This game is pretty simple: Latvia has been outscored 19-4 in the tournament, including a 5-2 loss to the Czechs on Friday night. The score was much closer than the game was in that one, and Jagr's bunch should have no trouble getting past the Latvians.

All of the men's hockey games to date have been played at Canada Hockey Place, also known as GM Place, the home of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks. Because there are four games in one day on Wednesday, they've moved this game to UBC Thunderbird Arena, a much smaller 6,000-seat arena on the campus of the University of British Columbia where women's hockey has been played this tournament. We'll see if the change in atmosphere has any impact on the outcome.

The winner will play Finland in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

12:00 AM ET / 9:00 PM PT: #7 Slovakia vs #10 Norway

Broadcast details: Live coverage begins at puck drop on NBCOlympics.com and at 12:30 AM ET / 9:30 PM PT on CNBC

Slovakia is a much better team than their seventh seed shows. They were able to knock off the Russians in overtime in the preliminary round and they have a positive goal differential of five.

Norway, on the other hand, is probably worse than their ten seed shows. They have a goal differential of minus-14 in the tournament, they lost big to both the USA and Canada while only playing the Swiss hard, and have just two NHL-caliber players on their roster.

Marian Gaborik, Jaroslav Halak and the Slovaks should have no trouble getting by Norway in the night cap. Then again, it's the Olympics, so anything can happen. The winner will take on Sweden on Wednesday in the quarterfinals.

Bracket (via On the Forecheck)

2010 Olympic Mens Hockey Bracket
 Playoff Qualifier 1 Quarterfinal 1

 #8 Switzerland  #1 USA

 #9 Belarus  PQ1 Winner Semifinal 1
 Playoff Qualifier 2 Quarterfinal 2 QF1 Winner Gold Medal
 #5 Czech Republic  #4 Finland QF2 Winner SF1 Winner
 #12 Latvia  PQ2 Winner
SF2 Winner
 Playoff Qualifier 3 Quarterfinal 3

 #7 Slovakia  #2 Sweden
Bronze Medal
 #10 Norway  PQ3 Winner Semifinal 2 SF1 Loser
 Playoff Qualifier 4 Quarterfinal 4 QF3 Winner SF2 Loser
 #6 Canada  #3 Russia QF4 Winner
 #11 Germany  PQ4 Winner


More: SB Nation’s full coverage of the Winter Olympics and the 2010 Winter Olympics Medal Count Tracker.

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