Decisions, decisions

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:37 AM ET

It's going to be up to Steve Yzerman to decide if he wants to suit up for Team Canada at the Olympics.

While there's no hurry to make a decision, Team Canada associate coach Ken Hitchcock told the Sun yesterday the ball will be in the 41-year-old Yzerman's court to determine if he wants to play in Turin.

Troubled by a nagging groin injury early this season, there has been speculation Yzerman might back out of playing for Canada to save himself for the playoffs for the Detroit Red Wings.

Everybody on the Team Canada staff knows that Yzerman will do what's right for his country.

"I think (executive director) Wayne (Gretzky) said it best: 'That's going to be up to Steve Yzerman to decide.' He's the only one who can make that decision," said Hitchcock prior to the Philadelphia Flyers' game against Ottawa last night.

"That being said, he's one of those glue guys and you can't discount the role those glue guys played in 2002 in Salt Lake City when we won the gold medal. When the going gets tough, and it got tough in 2002, you want to have guys like (Yzerman) around because they hold it together. He did a great job for us."

One player who is turning heads is Carolina Hurricanes centre Eric Staal. Yes, he was on the list of 81 players submitted to the IIHF for the Turin Olympics earlier, but now he's going to be amongst a group that gets serious consideration.

Hitchcock said Staal and Senators centre Jason Spezza are in a group pushing for spots. Staal is the NHL's leading scorer with nine goals and 12 assists in 11 games with the Hurricanes.

As for Spezza, he went into last night's game against the Flyers with five goals and 16 points in nine games.

"You have to look at a guy like Staal ... especially when he scores three against us when we're in there (Carolina) Friday night. The kid is so talented. There are a lot of guys pushing," said Hitchcock.

"You also have guys like Dany Heatley and Joe Thornton. You see what Spezza is doing with a guy like Heatley. We see that stuff and we take note of it. What we're trying to do right now is evaluate players and see where everybody can fit in."

Hitchcock said the list will be cut down in the near future.

"What we're going to do is evaluate through the first 10 or 15 games and then make some decisions on where we're going with our list of 81 players. We want to get it down and decide who we want to key on before making the roster (Dec. 22nd)," said Hitchcock.

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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