No Stevie Y may mean Spezza's the guy

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:42 PM ET

Jason Spezza was en route to the gym for an off-ice workout yesterday when Ottawa Senators teammate Dany Heatley delivered a bombshell.

Steve Yzerman had pulled out of contention for the Canadian Olympic team, leaving the door open for a young candidate to step in.

Would this be the opportunity for the Mississauga native to potentially join Heatley, his Sens linemate, in Turin?

"Any news like that is good news for me,"said Spezza, who entered play yesterday tied with Jaromir Jagr for the NHL scoring lead with 43 points. "I think what I've done so far shows I can play there.

"It's a short-term tournament and there's not a lot of time for players to jell. I think the chemistry (Heatley and I) have helps my chances."

Spezza, the Carolina Hurricanes' Eric Staal and the Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby are the top young guns vying for a spot on Team Canada.

The final roster will be announced Dec. 21.

Also aiding the cause of Staal and the others are recent comments from Mario Lemieux, who hinted he also might step aside. Should that be the case, don't be surprise if Magnificent Mario pushes Crosby as his replacement.

Yzerman called Team Canada executive director Wayne Gretzky Sunday night to deliver the news.

"I talked to Wayne the other night and told him I didn't feel I was playing well enough to hold one of 13 spots," Yzerman told Sportsnet.

"I'm very grateful for past opportunities representing my country, but there are too many good players playing too well for me to hold a spot on the roster."

Team Canada coach Pat Quinn raved about the job Yzerman did at the 2002 Salt Lake City games.

"He played on one leg and he still was a leader," Quinn said. "Everyone knows there are a lot of young talented guys knocking at the door but you can't replace that leadership."

Quinn expects players like Rob Blake and Joe Sakic to pick up the leadership slack in Yzerman's absence.

"Blake and Sakic showed in 2002 what important elements they were," Quinn said.


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