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Canada searches for missing offense, urgency when it faces Czechs

NHL.com @NHL

When Canadian general manager Wayne Gretzky put together an Olympic team featuring NHL stars including Joe Sakic and Jarome Iginla, offense was not expected to be a problem.

Instead, Canada finds itself struggling to score goals, much less notch wins.

The Canadians will try to re-establish their scoring touch when they meet the Czech Republic on Tuesday in the final preliminary-round game for both teams.

The defending gold-medalists were shut out for the second time in as many days Sunday, falling 2-0 to unbeaten Finland. That came after a loss Saturday by the same score to surprising Switzerland.

"Sometimes you get beat, sometimes it just happens," Gretzky said after the loss to the Finns, the Group A leader. "What was alarming about (Sunday) night was our emotional level - it wasn't the level of the Finnish team. They were dominating us in the first period, and that becomes alarming.

"I'm disappointed we weren't playing with more urgency."

Canada had not been shut out in consecutive Olympic games since it failed to score in its final three games at the 1984 Sarajevo Games, where it finished fourth in an eight-team field.

"We can throw all the excuses out there but we didn't get off to the start that we wanted to," forward Ryan Smyth said. "Four games in five nights, whatever. You've got to put all that aside. We're here to represent our country and we're going to do it with pride.

"We've got to start playing 60 minutes and then we know that we're going to be a tough team to play against."

Vincent Lecavalier, one of several NHL stars held without a goal in four games, agreed he and some teammates are playing tight. But he doesn't like suggestions the Canadians lack the enthusiasm their demanding home fans expect.

"I don't know why they'd say that," he said. "That's not fair. I think we are pretty upbeat. We're excited. It's been tough the last two games, when you can't score goals it's frustrating."

With that added pressure on Team Canada, Gretzky said younger players such as Dany Heatley, Rick Nash, Lecavalier and Simon Gagne must start contributing to help out older players such as Sakic, Gretzky said.

Nash, a first-time Olympian, agreed.

"We've definitely got to pick it up," Nash said. "We're under a lot of pressure. It's our country and we've got to win it for them."

Kris Draper added it was time for the Canadians to put together their best effort.

"Everyone has to hold themselves accountable to be ready to go against the Czech Republic," he said. "We have to come out and have our best period of the tournament. That's something that we've talked about. We've got a day to prepare. And that's our goal - to come out and try to dominate a first period, get some momentum, get some goals and turn this thing around."

The Czechs advanced to the medal round after a 4-1 win Sunday over host Italy. Vaclav Prospal of the Tampa Bay Lightning scored three goals and said he is expecting the Canadians to come out with their best game.

"They're trying to find their game, like us, and get ready to give their best in the quarterfinals," he said.

Martin Straka of the New York Rangers added three assists and NHL scoring leader Jaromir Jagr played one day after receiving nine stitches for cuts on his forehead and above his ear received in a loss to Finland.

Straka is among five players tied for sixth in the tournament with five points each. Prospal and Jagr each have four points.

The Czech Republic beat Canada 2-1 in a shootout in the semifinals of the 1998 Nagano Games en route to its only gold medal.

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