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Yzerman says he's happy with his roster so far

by Dan Rosen
VANCOUVER -- Steve Yzerman isn't exactly preparing his victory speech yet, but after two games Team Canada's Executive Director seems pleased with the roster he assembled.

Canada owns an 8-0 win over Norway but needed a shootout to take down upstart Switzerland 3-2 on Thursday in front of a tense-but-raucous crowd inside Canada Hockey Place.

"I think we played pretty hard and the pace of the game has been good in both games," Yzerman told in a phone interview Friday. "We'd like to pick up our power play percentage (3-for-13). We'd like to be more of a threat, but that's usually the case on teams that haven't had a chance to play together a while. It usually takes a while for your power play to come together. In general, after two games we're happy with the way we're playing."

Some of the Canadians' issues are obvious to anyone who watched their first two games closely.

Coach Mike Babcock is still searching for the proper fit on Sidney Crosby's right side. He seems to like Rick Nash on the left, but he has used Patrice Bergeron, Jarome Iginla and Jonathan Toews on the other side.

Iginla scored a hat trick after moving to Crosby's right wing against Norway, but the chemistry didn't return against Switzerland and Babcock put Bergeron back in that spot. By the end of the game, Toews was there.

"I think we can play anybody on Sid's line and it would work fine," Yzerman said, downplaying any concern he may have over the position. "The coaches are doing some different things, seeing what works best not only for his line but for other lines, trying to maximize everybody's abilities and put people in the right spots. I really don't think we should make too big of a deal about it."

Canada also seemed to have difficulty controlling its emotions for parts of Thursday's game.

For instance, Switzerland scored the tying goal on a delayed penalty because Chris Pronger lost his cool by retaliating against Swiss forward Andres Ambuhl.

Pronger got checked hard by Ambuhl -- but instead of skating away he went after him, cross-checked him and kept jabbing away with his back to the play. After Patrick von Gunten's shot from the left circle deflected into the net off Patrick Marleau's left skate, Ambuhl went back at Pronger and got right in his face.

Fortunately, Pronger didn't react to that.

"I wouldn't read a whole lot into that other than, you know what, you can't retaliate," Yzerman said. "You know that time and again, but again that's the human element that comes into it for all of us. We have all done things in a game that made us go, 'I shouldn't have done that,' but I wouldn't read too much into that. It was his guy and the other guy throws the puck at the net, it hit Patrick Marleau's skate and that's just the way the game is sometimes."

The emotional aspect of the game is something Yzerman understands all too well from his playing days. He said it's part of being in a tournament like this or a playoff series in the NHL, and it's what makes the game great.

"I think it'll be fast very and it'll be somewhat physical. Both teams have some guys that checking is a part of their game, but for the most part it is two very skilled teams that like to go up and down the ice. I think it should be a really entertaining game."
-- Team Canada Executive Director Steve Yzerman

"It's about controlling yourself and being able to be comfortable in the scenario and playing at your best," he said. "(Thursday's) game was a great game for us and great preparation for games to come because it was a tight game, a close game that had to go all the way to a shootout. Eventually we'll face that again as we move forward in the tournament here and the more times you are in that position the better off you feel."

Not on Friday, though. Babcock gave his players the entire day off to do whatever they wanted in Vancouver.

Yzerman was hoping some of them take in another event to drink in the Olympic experience, but most importantly he feels the day off is good for their bodies as they prepare for what should be their toughest game so far against Team USA on Sunday.

"Our players have had a busy week, playing a lot of games on the weekend in the NHL and traveling all the way out here and getting prepared for your first two games," Yzerman said. "I think it's important to have a day off for them to regroup and just get refreshed here, and it's a bonus to get out in a beautiful city. The weather is nice so they can go see an event or just go and relax in Vancouver. It'll help them prepare for their next game."

And what about that next game, the anticipated showdown between North Americans?

Yzerman played a pivotal role the last time the Canadians and Americans squared off in the Olympics eight years ago in Salt Lake City. He had an assist in Canada's 5-2 win in the gold medal game, helping his country end a 50-year drought.

"I think it'll be fast very and it'll be somewhat physical," he said of Sunday's rematch. "Both teams have some guys that checking is a part of their game, but for the most part it is two very skilled teams that like to go up and down the ice. I think it should be a really entertaining game."

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