Canada sits two points back in second place with 7 points, having dropped two to the United States. Switzerland is next with 6 points with the Americans next at 5, but gave back the momentum of their rare win over Canada with a loss to Slovakia, a team ranked four spots lower than them in the current world rankings.
Slovakia, Belarus and France are currently tied with 3 points each, but Slovakia's win over the US gives them an advantage since Belarus is not expected to take points away from their game with the US and France has already lost to them.
Kazakhstan trails the pack with no points and is likely to be relegated, having already dropped games to Belarus and France, while yet to face Slovakia, the United States, Canada and Finland.
Group S in Stockholm has a battle for the top spot, with the hometown Sweden and Russia currently undefeated with 9 points each. They meet Friday for what could be the decisive game of the group.
Latvia is third with 6 points, aided by an important regulation win over Germany. They must win against Denmark and Norway to entertain any hopes of advancing, and would do themselves a great favor by at least taking a point from the Czechs to take the pressure off their final game with Sweden. The Latvians are one point up on the Czech Republic, who are off to a mediocre start, having lost to Sweden and requiring a shootout to defeat Norway, which cost them a point in the standings.
Germany is next with 3 points, but will rue the day they lost to Latvia, as they are now in a battle with them and the Czechs for the final playoff spot. Their final group stage game on May 15th against the Czechs could be a winner take all game to see who advances, assuming Germany can get maximum points from their upcoming games against Denmark and Norway. Drop even a few points, and they could be too far back for their final game to make any difference.
Italy scored a nice win over Denmark to gain two points. They need to win against favored Norway but realistically, those look to be the last points available to them, as they have games left against the Czechs, Swedes and Russians afterward.
Norway has been in every game so far, but with little to show for it against Sweden, Russia and the Czech Republic, earning just a single point from taking the Czechs to a shootout, but with the murder's row part of their schedule behind them, they should begin to rise up out of the bottom of the group with Italy and Denmark yet to come and opportunities to add to their total against Germany and Latvia.
Denmark is also sitting at one point, but surely regret not taking more than just one from their overtime loss to Italy. They must find a way to gather some additional points from their remaining games against Russia, Germany, Latvia and Norway to climb over Italy to remain in the Top Division.
The games on the schedule today are:
- Slovakia vs. Kazakhstan
- Norway vs. Italy
- Canada vs. Switzerland
- Sweden vs. Germany
Key games for American fans to follow today are Slovakia vs. Kazakhstan, as any points lost by Slovakia is good for the United States, and Canada vs. Switzerland, both ahead of the US in the Group H standings.
The next games for the United States comes on Thursday vs. Belarus and Friday against Kazakhstan. A pair of regulation wins will go a long way to restoring US confidence and keep them on pace to advance to the playoff round.
Canada would do themselves a huge favor by beating Switzerland in regulation today, as their game against Finland will be a difficult one and they must not relinquish any points in their final two games with Belarus and Kazakstan, but realistically, they are not in any danger of missing out on the playoffs.