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Pressure starts now

Brian Burke can already see it and Steve Yzerman can already feel it:The pressure to win Olympic gold in hockey is all on Canada.

Brian Burke can already see it and Steve Yzerman can already feel it: The pressure to win Olympic gold in hockey is all on Canada.

Burke, the GM of the American entry, and Yzerman, the GM of Team Canada, held separate conference calls to talk about their selection process with the Olympic hockey tournament one year away.

“I was there in Vancouver when they opened that envelope (to award the 2010 games),” said Burke. “At that moment, all the pressure shifted to the Canadian team for the hockey part of this tournament.

“Our (U.S.) squad is going to fly under the radar. That’s fine. There’s going to be this huge glacier of pressure on the Canadian team.”

While Burke was busy piling the pressure on Canada, Yzerman tried to manage national expectations a little bit.

“I think everyone has to realize and accept the fact that in these tournaments — one-game elimination — anything can happen,” said Yzerman.

Yzerman was far more comfortable talking about the kind of team he wants to wears the red and white in the Olympics. It sounds a lot like the team that wears red and white in the NHL.

“I don’t expect to be run and gun. We’re not going to sit back and be a defensive team, sit back and trap. We’ve got to attack, we’ve got to defend,” said Yzerman. “The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup and they were excellent in both ends of the rink.”

With the Olympic hockey tournament one year away, Yzerman was taking questions on a conference call yesterday as he outlined his philosophy on how he intends to build a team.
One-dimensional checkers need not apply.

“I don’t want to leave off a goal scorer to bring in a guy who’s a designated third-line checker,” said Yzerman.

“That doesn’t make sense. The best defensive lines are guys who can do it in both ends of the rink.”

A coaching staff will be named shortly after the Stanley Cup is awarded, with invitations extended to players by July 1 to attend a week-long camp Aug. 24 in Calgary.

But Yzerman confessed he’s faced with an embarrassment of riches in trying to pare a roster down to 13 forwards, seven defencemen and three goalies.

For one thing, depth at centre suggests Yzerman could have players playing out of position. Consider the availability of centres Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Vincent Lecavalier, Marc Savard, Eric Staal, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, and Jonathan Toews.

Burke has his own bit of stickhandling to do when it comes to picking his coach. His friend and Maple Leafs coach, Ron Wilson, is a candidate for the U.S. job, but not a shoo-in.

“Our friendship is going to survive this (Maple Leafs) relationship,” said Burke. “And it’s strong enough that it’s going to survive Olympic selection.”

 
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