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Canadian goalies laying it on the line for '10 berth

by Dan Rosen
CALGARY -- Martin Brodeur is the incumbent, the No. 1, the goalie seeking revenge for Canada's 2006 Olympic debacle. Brodeur also is the one with the most to lose, even though he doesn't quite see it that way.

Roberto Luongo, Brodeur's backup in Torino nearly three and a half years ago, says every time he steps on the ice over the next four months he's going to view it as another tryout for Team Canada. The 2010 Olympics are in his backyard, on his home ice, so motivation won't be a problem.

As for Cam Ward, Marc-Andre Fleury and Steve Mason, they're out to knock Brodeur and Luongo from their Olympic perches. Their inclusion in this week's Orientation Camp at the Pengrowth Saddledome provides that first opportunity. What matters now is what they do with it.

Who among Canada's bevy of talented goaltenders makes it to Vancouver will be one of the most talked about topics in the hockey world until the ultimate decision is made in late December.

"You're asking the wrong guy," Luongo said when polled about the goalies. "The only thing I can do is play."

Brodeur, of course, seems like the closest thing to a lock provided he is healthy come Olympic time. Both coach Mike Babcock and Executive Director Steve Yzerman value experience and no goalie in the country has more than Brodeur.

Not only has he won three Stanley Cups, but he was a backup to Patrick Roy at the 1998 Games in Nagano, the starter for Canada's gold-medal winning entry in 2002, and the No. 1 for the Canadians' disappointing entry in 2006 in Torino.

Brodeur has experienced every high and low imaginable in his Olympic career, from sitting silently as Roy demanded the net in '98 to coming off the bench after Curtis Joseph got the first start in 2002 to playing well for an offensively challenged team in '06. Hockey Canada knows you can't teach experience like that.

"I'm sure that the veteran guy who has been here before, I'm sure he's not giving his job away," Babcock said. "The reason those veteran guys keep finding a way to have their job is they are that good and they don't give their job away. In saying that, everything is wide open. It always is."

Luongo would be second closest to a lock, but all he has to do is look behind him to understand nothing is given. Luongo may have Olympic experience -- he played in two games with a 1.51 goals-against average in Torino -- but Fleury and Ward have won the Stanley Cup, while Mason won gold in the World Junior Championship and is coming off a Calder Trophy season.

Luongo has no Cup rings, no Olympic medals and no NHL trophies of any kind. In fairness, he won a pair of gold medals at the World Championships and another at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, but so did Brodeur.

"You always have something to prove," Luongo said. "There are always young guys behind you and pushing you. Look at the goalies here, they're all great goalies so I wouldn't see why my spot here is guaranteed. There is no reason for that."

Of the five goalies here, Luongo may be under the most focused microscope. The tournament is taking place in Vancouver, where he just happens to keep his day job, so how he deals with the pressure and daily questions about Team Canada and the Olympics will go a long way in determining his status.

"All I know is that every time I step on the ice I will be thinking about how it's an audition to make the team," Luongo said. "It's about me going out and doing my thing."

That's the same thing Ward said when asked about where he stands in this goalie race. Ward never got to play in the World Juniors, instead losing out to guys like Fleury, Josh Harding and David LeNeveu. The Olympics would be a nice substitution.

"My career has been a big learning curve," Ward said. "Things didn't pan out at the World Juniors stage, but you learn from those experiences. I just have to worry about what I need to do, play my game and help the Hurricanes succeed and it will all take care of itself. It's not going to be easy, but it's definitely a goal of mine."

Even though Mason considers himself the underdog, or as he admitted, the wildcard of the bunch because of his age, his goal is to not only make this team, but be the No. 1. He's only 21 with one season of NHL experience behind him, but he thinks he can do it.

"You have to have that confidence," Mason said. "You have to give them respect for what they have done, but at the same time everybody is looking for a job. There are five goalies here and they're only taking three, so two goalies are going to be left out and I definitely don't want to be one of those two."

Ironically, of the five, Fleury was the only one who appeared to be at least slightly in doubt about his chances of making the team. He's also the only one that just backstopped his team to a Stanley Cup championship and has spent the summer celebrating it.

Fleury views Brodeur and Luongo as the established goalies in camp and doesn't know if he belongs in their class yet. Perhaps he's too tough on himself, or maybe he's just being honest because he knows Brodeur and Luongo are still at the top of their games.

"I'll try my best, do everything I can and it'll be up to Hockey Canada to make the final call," Fleury said. "I don't know. This is something I want to do. I would love to be a part of the team, but there are so many good goalies in Canada. It will be tough."

The competition is what makes a spot on this team special and the competition among the goalies intriguing.

"This year is going to be a great challenge, not just for me, but the other guys too," Brodeur said. "Competition in that way will be healthy and you know what, you never know."

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