Vincent Lecavalier has had no shortage of reminders about the uphill battle he’s facing to earn a spot on Team Canada.
As the Tampa Bay Lightning captain struggled through the first month of the NHL season with just one goal, his phone rang continuously. And the voice on the other end usually belonged to a concerned friend.
Even though Lecavalier has come to expect that kind of support during a down period, he’s been receiving more than usual because it’s an Olympic year.
“It’s tough when you get reminded,” Lecavalier said this week in Toronto. “Probably the worst is when your buddies call you and remind you. They want to help you but it just reminds you that you’re struggling a little bit and you can’t get the puck in.
“I understand my friends want to be nice and help me but of course when you’re reminded about it too much you just want to get away from that and just focus on the next game.”
While it’s likely that Lecavalier would be left off the Canadian Olympic team if Steve Yzerman was making his selections today, he is still feeling optimistic about his chances.
Eight weeks remain before the team will be unveiled on Dec. 31 and Lecavalier’s starting to feel better about his game.
With Yzerman and the Olympic brass in attendance, he scored his second goal of the season during a 2-1 win over Toronto on Tuesday night. Now he’ll look to string together some good performances when the Lightning visit Ottawa on Thursday and Montreal on Saturday.
He freely admits the Vancouver Games are something he’s been thinking about.
“I’m always worried about Tampa, but it’s also in the back of my mind that I want to part of this Olympic team,” said Lecavalier. “Even though I struggled a little bit in the first month, I really think if I have a good month of November – I don’t know exactly when they pick that team – but if I have a good month and a half, hopefully I can be part of that team.”
The 29-year-old was part of the 2006 Olympic team that finished seventh in Turin. More memorably, he was named tournament MVP after helping Canada capture the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.
He’s also a Stanley Cup champion and has averaged more than a point a game since the NHL lockout – credentials that had many assuming a year ago he was a slam dunk choice for 2010.
However, Lecavalier was slowed by injuries at the end of last season and underwent wrist surgery in April.
Even though he felt strong during the Olympic orientation camp in Calgary over the summer, it didn’t translate to a good start. The first eight games passed without a goal – although Lecavalier was still finding the scoresheet with plenty of assists.
“The points were still there, but obviously still not where I wanted to be,” said Lecavalier. “Sometimes when you don’t score for a few games, it kind of gets in your head. It’s the exact opposite when you start scoring a lot – you feel like you can pick any corner you want, do whatever you want with the puck and it’s going to go in.
“Hopefully I’m going to get into that mode and get out of this little slump and hopefully we won’t be talking about this in 30-40 games.”
Interestingly, two of Lecavalier’s teammates are also in the running to be included on Team Canada. Martin St. Louis and 19-year-old Steven Stamkos are each making a bid for the squad.
Stamkos wasn’t extended an invite to the summer camp – Yzerman called that one of his toughest decisions – but has come roaring out of the gates with 11 goals and 16 points in 13 games. He was aware the Olympic management group was in attendance at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday, but didn’t try and do anything special in a bid to get their attention.
“If guys are thinking like that, they’re thinking the wrong way,” said Stamkos. “You want to go and play every game the same. You’ve got to be focused no matter who is in the stands. You have to play your game and it shouldn’t matter.”