Michal Neuvirth has earned No. 1 job for Czechs at World Cup

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Gregory Shamus/World Cup of Hockey via Getty Images
Gregory Shamus/World Cup of Hockey via Getty Images

PITTSBURGH – Michal Neuvirth has given the Czech Republic coaching staff plenty to think about over the next 72 hours before their World Cup of Hockey opener against Canada Saturday night.

Through three pre-tournament games he’s outplayed Petr Mrazek in net, but the Czech coaching staff wasn’t ready to anoint him as the No. 1 just yet after their 3-2 win over Team North America Wednesday afternoon at Consol Energy Center.

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“In my mind it’s going to be really hard on us the next couple of days,” said Czech assistant coach Vinny Prospal. “We don’t have anymore exhibition games. We start on Saturday against a really, really good hockey team and I’d like to think we’re going to choose the right guy.”

If we’re projecting Saturday’s starter, it should be Neuvirth, who stopped 45 of the 46 shots he faced in two games played, including all 25 against the U-23 squad, and posted a .978 save percentage.

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“They’re huge,” said Czech captain Tomas Plekanec of the Czech goaltending group. “We knew even before the tournament that we had good goalies, that we can count on all of the three of them and they showed it tonight. They were important.”

As Prospal said, the Czechs need to choose the right guy. In a short tournament, and in a group with Canada, the U.S. and Team Europe, they will not be able to afford to drop points early.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!