Turris takes it to heart

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

PARDUBICE, Czech Republic -- It was the day Team Canada was preparing to jet across the Atlantic, two weeks ago. Before catching the plane, there was a phone call to take.

A call from not just anybody.

"They told us we had a surprise guest that was going to talk to us and wish us luck," forward Kyle Turris was saying yesterday. "A couple people made some guesses. One of 'em was Wayne Gretzky."

Bingo.

The man whose organization had drafted Turris third overall last summer was on the other end of the line, providing some last-minute encouragement before the Canadians left for the World Junior Hockey Championship.

"When he got on the phone, their eyes were all lit up," head coach Craig Hartsburg recalled. "And then at the end he said good luck to Kyle -- and everybody started laughing."

Apparently, Turris took it to heart.

TOOK IT TO SLOVAKS

Yesterday, the future Phoenix Coyotes star took it to the Slovaks, scoring both goals in Canada's 2-0 victory, its second straight shutout to open the tournament, something no Canadian team had ever done.

That doesn't mean this has been a perfect start for the Canucks.

Far from it, actually.

Despite the Great One's urgings, this team was far from great.

Playing just 16 hours after they shut out the host Czechs before a packed house, the Canadians weren't tough enough, they lacked energy and their power play stunk, as 3,657 fans, many from Canada, tried hard to get excited.

Other than that, it was a pretty good day.

"We have a lot to work on," Turris summed up.

Captain Karl Alzner didn't mind expanding on that.

"We by far didn't play our best game," the defenceman began. "We were a little bit sloppy at times. We didn't have enough grit, especially down in their zone. We lost a lot of puck battles along the wall, and you can't lose puck battles -- they're going to turn around and have odd-man rushes.

"We would have liked a little bit more rest. And it showed. We were a little drained from that first game being so tough."

Turned out the Czechs and their drum-beating, whistling faithful took some of the starch out of the Canucks, even in losing 3-0 Wednesday.

While both of Turris's goals came with the extra man, the Canadian power play squandered several chances to put this one away early.

And you could count the number of decent hits on one hand.

Head coach Craig Hartsburg will no doubt address both issues in practice today.

"Our emotional level was down," Hartsburg said. "That's the quick turnaround after a real tough game in here (Wednesday) night -- emotions and intensity were very high. We've got to get that back."

They certainly won't get all those power plays back. Squandering 10 chances, the Canadians were beneficiaries of some calls they may never see again.

"It was kind of a bizarre game with some of the calls, both ways," Hartsburg said. "The calls weren't as big a concern as the power play. We moved the puck way too slow, held onto it too long."

A few players rose above the muck, among them Turris, defenceman Drew Doughty and goaltender Steve Mason, getting the start ahead of Game 1 hero Jonathan Bernier.

But efforts like these first two won't cut it once the heavy lifting begins.

Wednesday, Bernier bailed them out.

Yesterday, it was Turris.

"Very intelligent player," Hartsburg said. "He's got great puck skills. He's still a young kid, really, still learning how to win. His eyes are wide open. He's always asking questions."

Minutes later, as he stepped out the back door of the CEZ Arena, Turris was signing autographs. Not for Canadians, either.

Seems the product of New Westminster, B.C., still just 18, already has a following in this historic Czech city.

"He's going to be a great player," Hartsburg said.

No doubt with a growing legion of great fans back home.


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