'We can't get too high'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

TURIN -- Martin Brodeur admits he doesn't know much about the Italian hockey team.

"I know their uniforms are blue," the Team Canada netminder said yesterday.

But that's good news because at least Brodeur will recognize the guys coming at him if Italy even makes it to the net in today's Olympic opener for Canada.

Instead of facing a powerhouse such as Sweden as it did in Salt Lake City in 2002, Canada meets host Italy as it begins its defence of the gold medal.

"We don't want it be a roller-coaster ride (like it was in 2002)," defenceman Adam Foote said, "but I think what we have to make sure we do is keep a level head in the way we play.

"We don't want any difficulties and we aren't going to make any excuses and we're not going to let any creep into our dressing room. We have to be ready. We're going to get more time to jell and we have a few more games. It's like anything, it's how you control the emotions through the ups and downs. If we beat a team in a cakewalk, we can't get too high."

LONG DAY

Canada didn't arrive at the Turin airport until 8:30 a.m. yesterday. By the time the players checked into the athletes village, got something to eat and left for practice, many of the players had been up for the better part of 24 hours.

The Italians are ranked 12th in the tournament but, as hosts, they will be pumped up in front of their home crowd.

"We'll give 100%," Italian captain Joe Busillo said. "We're 12th. We're not expecting anything. That might be an advantage for us. We're entering these Games as the underdogs."

This is a different Canadian team than executive director Wayne Gretzky started out with when he named the 26-man roster on Dec. 22.

Defencemen Ed Jovanovski (groin) and Scott Niedermayer (knee) had to pull out with injuries, meaning Bryan McCabe moved to the regular roster from the taxi squad while Jay Bouwmeester and Dan Boyle were added.

It's expected Boyle won't dress for today's game.

"The fortunate thing for Canada is we have depth," defenceman Rob Blake said. "McCabe, Jay Bouwmeester and Dan Boyle are guys who can all step in and get the job done for us.

"One thing we've learned in the past is that what we have to do is improve as the Games go on. You have to play your best hockey at the end because that's when it means the most. That being said, we still have to come together quick."

DRAPER SURPRISED

There was one surprise among Canada's lines yesterday -- grinder Kris Draper skated on the left side of the top line with Joe Sakic and Jarome Iginla.

"Not bad, eh," Draper said. "I'll be honest with you, when I got to the rink I thought someone was fooling around with me. An opportunity to play with Sakic and Iginla? To sit right now and talk about it, I still kind of shake my head."

If it all goes wrong and Canada fails to defend its title, Gretzky said people can point the finger at him.

"If we don't win a gold medal, I'm going to get blamed, but I've been blamed for lots before. That's not going to change my life," Gretzky said.


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