The Latvia National Hockey Team is currently ranked 11th in the IIHF World Rankings. Based on their status outside the top nine automatic Olympic qualifiers, Latvia was obligated to participate in the Olympic Qualification process, a series of tournaments that date back to September of 2012. Latvia entered the qualification process in the third and final round of qualification, hosting the Group E tournament in Riga competing against France (ranked 13th), Kazakhstan (16th) and Great Britain (22nd).
Latvia enters the 2014 Olympics as a team having gone through a transition, with just a single active NHLer on it's roster, the young Zamgus Girgensons of the Buffalo Sabres. While the Latvians do have NHL veteran and 42 year old Sandis Ozolinsh on the team, they are past their glory days of battling Switzerland for the "best of the rest" in the early 2000's when they boasted players such as Arturs Irbe, Sergei Zholtok and Ozolinsh on a regular basis. They will also be sadly missing NHL veteran Karlis Skrastins, who was killed in the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl air disaster.
Still, for followers of international hockey, there are several veteran players on the Latvian roster and they are not to be taken lightly. Outside the lone NHLer Girgensons on their roster, the remainder of the Latvian roster draws heavily from Dinamo Riga of the Kontinental Hockey Legaue (KHL), with 8 members of that club on the roster, which will hopefully give the Latvians a cohesiveness and familiarity with each other right from the start that most countries will be only hoping to find. Of the remaining players, five more come from other clubs in the KHL, two from Switzerland and one each from leagues in Kazakhstan, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany and one in playing college hockey in the United States.
The absolute best case scenario for Latvia would include beating or tying Switzerland and hoping for a tie against the Czech Republic. Realistically however, Latvia will be trying to keep their games as low scoring and close as possible playing a tight defense in order to give themselves the most favorable goal differential compared to the other lower ranked teams. Doing so would earn them the most favorable matchup on February 18th in the Qualification Playoffs to determine who will advance to the quarterfinals should Latvia go winless in their Group of Death.