These are the truly anxious moments for Steve Yzerman.
Since he unveiled Team Canada’s lineup at the end of December, the executive director has seen Marc-Andre Fleury, Brenden Morrow, Dan Boyle, Patrice Bergeron and Ryan Getzlaf miss games because of injury.
Even though all 23 of his original picks are still expected to be in Vancouver next month, Yzerman knows that could change on any given night. He’s found it a tad difficult to relax while waiting for the Games to start, especially given that something bad could happen to one of his players in the meantime.
“Just sitting between announcing the team and (the time leading) up to the Olympics is the most difficult part,” Yzerman told The Canadian Press in a recent interview. “There’s not a whole lot you can do at this point. You’re sitting wondering if you’ve got injured guys, how are they going to be? I’m just watching guys play.”
While Bergeron (broken right thumb) and Getzlaf (leg) have both returned to action, the other three players were on the sidelines at the end of last week.
Fleury was the first to return. His fractured finger had healed enough for him to start in goal as the Pittsburgh Penguins visited the New York Rangers on Monday night.
Morrow has missed four games with an oblique injury and is expected to return to practice with the Dallas Stars this week. Boyle has an undisclosed upper-body injury, but skated in San Jose over the weekend.
Injuries could play a big role in these Olympics because teams won’t be carrying a taxi squad like they did four years ago in Turin. Each country will register its final 23-man roster on Feb. 15 – the night before the tournament begins – and no one else will be eligible to suit up at the event.
As a result, teams will be reluctant to bring any players with nagging problems that might be easily aggravated in Vancouver. Yzerman and his Olympic management group have been sure to monitor each situation as closely as possible.
The NHL shuts its doors for the Olympic break on Feb. 14, leaving teams with between eight and 11 games to play before Team Canada faces Norway in Vancouver on Feb. 16.
There’s reason to believe this Canadian Olympic squad might have more success on the scoresheet than the 2006 version.
A number of the team’s players have been hot of late, with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby leading the way last week by scoring eight points in three games. That included a six-point night against the Islanders on Jan. 19 to match his career high for a game.
It was also a good few days for Eric Staal, who has scored five goals in three games since replacing Rod Brind’Amour as captain of the Carolina Hurricanes. He’ll be one of nine Canadian players at the Olympics who captains an NHL team.
Two others are among the better-performing members of Team Canada recently – Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash had three goals and five points last week while Canucks captain Roberto Luongo reeled off three straight victories, turning aside 94 of 100 shots in the process.
San Jose Sharks forward Patrick Marleau continues to lead the league in goals, picking up three more last week to increase his overall total to 35. That’s the second-highest amount he’s ever had in his career and leaves him just four away from eclipsing the 38 he scored last season.
One Canadian player who will be looking to pick it up before the Olympics is Jarome Iginla.
The Calgary Flames captain brings a 10-game scoring drought into Monday’s game against St. Louis and has just one goal in 14 games overall – a stretch that dates back to just before Yzerman unveiled Team Canada on Dec. 30.