'Two great kids'

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

PARDUBICE, Czech Republic -- His predecessor, Brent Sutter, never had to deal with it. Until now, Craig Hartsburg hasn't, either.

For the first time in more than three years, a head coach for Team Canada is trying to bounce back from a loss at the world junior hockey championship.

And if there's an old, dust-covered manual kicking around on how to handle it, Chapter One is probably called, Prepare For Much Second-Guessing.

After all, isn't Canada made up of a few million hockey coaches?

"You can't worry about it," Hartsburg said yesterday. "There's probably people who second-guess last year, people who second-guess the year before, people who second-guess the team selection every year. We believe we're doing the right things. I believe in what I'm doing."

And what he's doing as the Canadians close out the preliminary round against Denmark tonight is switching goaltenders -- again.

Steve Mason, who shut out the Slovaks in Game 2, replaces Jonathan Bernier, who followed up a spectacular shutout of the Czechs in Game 1 with a 4-3 loss to Sweden on Saturday.

It marks the first time in five years Canada hasn't settled on a No. 1 goalie this late in the tournament.

"I'm comfortable with it right now," Hartsburg said. "(Today's) game is the only thing we're worried about right now. It's a one-day-at-a-time tournament. At some point we'll probably make a decision for the medal round, and go with it. But right now we're going to give Mason a game (today), and he has been very good. We've got two great kids."

A first-round draft pick by Los Angeles who began the season with the Kings, Bernier's performance against the Swedes was difficult to gauge, since two goals came off strange bounces which were difficult to pin on the man between the pipes.

"Whether he really had a legitimate chance on any of them, I'm not sure," Hartsburg said.

For Mason, a Columbus draft choice, this is a chance to grab the No. 1 job and keep it for the medal round, and he knows it.

"It's awesome," the Oakville native said. "I got my shot. And I'm going to make the most of it. I want to take the ball and run with it. Hopefully, the coaches can agree with me."

Regardless of the goalie, Hartsburg wants his team to tighten up in front of him.

Citing turnovers, a lack of back checking and loose defensive coverage, he pegged Sweden's scoring chances Saturday at around 20 -- double what Canada had been giving up.

"There were some breakdowns we can't have," Hartsburg said. "I don't think it was panic, because it happened before we were behind. And we'd probably got away with some of it in the other games, and against a team like Sweden you're not going to get away with it."


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