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Flames D-men looking to make Canada's Olympic cut

Monday, 12.28.2009 / 10:21 AM / All-Access Vancouver

By Todd Kimberley - NHL.com Correspondent

 
CALGARY -- Where there's smoke, there's fire.

At least, that's what three members of the Calgary Flames' defense corps are fervently hoping with the 2010 Vancouver Olympics less than six weeks away.

Back in August, Robyn Regehr, Jay Bouwmeester and Dion Phaneuf were all invited to the Canadian men's Olympic orientation camp, making the Flames the NHL's only outfit with three players among the 16 defensemen on the camp roster.

Now, the anticipation has grown to a near fever pitch in Canada -- with Steve Yzerman, the general manager of the Canadian men's Olympic squad, set to name the host country's roster Wednesday morning in Saskatoon.

Calgary captain Jarome Iginla is a virtual lock to be named up front, but just how many of these Flames rearguards will make the seven-man final cut at the back end? After all, as former NHL general manager and TSN hockey analyst Mike Milbury recently told the Calgary Herald, in Regehr, Bouwmeester and Phaneuf, "you're talking about three guys in the league that everyone likes to varying degrees."

"There's nothing you can do about it at this point," Bouwmeester, the 6-foot-4, 212-pound Edmontonian, tells NHL.com. "Like anybody else, you'd like to be there, but they've got some tough decisions to make."

Ain't that the truth.

Which way do Yzerman and Co. lean on Wednesday -- the experience of Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger? The sublime shutdown duo of Chicago's Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith? The superb all-around package of Shea Weber? What about Mike Green's offensive upside, Dan Boyle's mobility, or young Drew Doughty's precocious talents? What about Regehr's positioning and punishment, Bouwmeester's incomparable skating prowess, or Phaneuf's blue-line laser beam?

There are no wrong answers. But Regehr, for one, still has a bad taste in his mouth from Torino in '06. As a member of the Canadian team that scored only two goals in its final four games, and was ousted by Russia in a quarterfinal, the man nicknamed "Tunnel of Death" would like nothing more than another chance.

"We had trouble scoring goals, and that one rink, I forget the name (Torino Esposizione), we never scored a goal when we played in there. It came down to a very disappointing outcome for us as Canadians, and hockey players," Regehr said.

"I think for anyone who was on that team, and does get the chance to get to Vancouver, there's going to be even extra motivation on top of what's already going to be there, because of what happened."

Bouwmeester, 26, was toiling for the Florida Panthers during the winter of 2005-06, and despite his gold-medal result at the 2003 and '04 World Championships, and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, says he "didn't expect to go" to Torino. But when Niedermayer couldn't answer the bell because of a knee injury, Bouwmeester was named as an injury replacement to the Canadian squad just two days before the opening ceremony.

While Bouwmeester led the Canadians in plus-minus rating (plus-4), he too admits that he was a sore loser.

"Everyone knows, in tournaments like that, it's a one-game elimination, and if you don't peak at the right time, you can get upset," says Bouwmeester, who holds the NHL's current "iron man" games-played streak at 379 games, and has played just under 27 minutes a game this season, tops across the league.

"People talk about four or five six different countries (as favorites), but there's really no slouches. Early on in the tournament, you have to come together and win those games, if you have them, against some countries that people wouldn't expect much out of."

Both Bouwmeester and Regehr do, however, have some fond Olympic memories they'd like to build on -- the camaraderie, the hopes and dreams, and the common goals.

"You get to stay in the (Athletes' Village) and see what the whole Olympics means to the other athletes," says Bouwmeester, whose 15 points are second on the Flames roster to Phaneuf's 17. "They work four years for that, and they're at the pinnacle of their sport. It's neat to be in that atmosphere."

"You're there to compete, but there is the opportunity to share stories about sacrifice and dedication," Regehr said. "Everyone faces different levels of that -- whether as a hockey player, you had to move away from home at a young age, and start pursuing your career; or you're an amateur athlete where you do have that four-year window for the Olympics and the world championships that lead up to the Olympics.

"The roles are a little bit different, but ultimately, each one of those athletes wants to get to the same place, and that's on top of the podium -- preferably the highest step."