Crosby should be a big part of world championship

Sidney Crosby (87) of Pittsburgh Penguins warms up prior to taking on the Ottawa Senators in...

Sidney Crosby (87) of Pittsburgh Penguins warms up prior to taking on the Ottawa Senators in pre-season NHL action at the Corel Centre in Ottawa on Sept 29, 2005. (SUN/Sean Kilpatrick)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

As coach and co-recruiter for the Canadian side at the world championship in May in Latvia, Habscheid gets the first chance to restore the nation's wounded hockey pride -- with Sidney Crosby high on his list. You'd think Habscheid will be inundated with volunteers, especially those who failed to win a medal in Italy or thought they deserved to go.

"I feel good about (Latvia), but there are a whole lot of unknowns that go with this tournament," Habscheid said this week. "You don't know what the final roster will be (as in which players will get eliminated from the playoffs in late April) and after going through a compressed schedule since Torino, how many guys will want to keep playing?"

Habscheid, who led Canada to silver last year, held his first preliminary roster discussions with Team Canada general manager Ken Holland this week. Soon, Habscheid will be popping up at some NHL rinks where non-playoff teams are involved, including the Air Canada Centre if the Maple Leafs don't turn things around quickly.

Pat Brisson, Crosby's agent, sees no reason his client won't be in Latvia once his Pittsburgh Penguins finish the regular season on April 18 in Toronto.

"As long as he's healthy and if he is invited," Brisson said. "Sidney would like nothing more than to keep playing for Pittsburgh, because he has never missed the playoffs in his life, but he has played at the national level before."

Brisson said his client wasn't angry at the Wayne Gretzky-led selection committee for leaving him off the Olympic roster. Other young stars, such as Russia's Alexander Ovechkin, were integral parts of their national teams.

"He would have liked to go, but just look at the roster that was available," Brisson said. "Hopefully, he gets his chance in 2010."

TRADE DEADLINE COUNTDOWN

With six days to go, we start with the defending Stanley Cup champions.

The Tampa Bay Lightning's chances of repeating will be determined in part by what it can rustle up in the defensive depth department. The cupboard is nearly bare after the top six and it believe s it's living on borrowed time with so few injuries in 2004 and this year.

"Thus far, there has not been a real sentiment to move players for draft picks," Bolts general manager Jay Feaster said. "People want bodies back."

The Buffalo Sabres talked Mika Noronen into a conditioning stint and informed the other 29 GMs of the move, a signal their three-headed goaltending monster will be tamed. But one school of thought says trade the bigger contract of Martin Biron and save about $1.5 million US by keeping Noronen to play behind Ryan Miller.

The Sabres also are trying to unload Taylor Pyatt.

The Olli Jokinen-to-Ottawa talk has stalled as the Senators decided they'd rather pay the big money to retain incumbents Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara. Calgary and Nashville have made some Jokinen inquiries, too.

"If it was up to me I'd sign myself here," Jokinen said of staying put. "It's good to see your name, (but) it would be a lot better to see it on the ticker, 'Jokinen signs long-term deal with the Panthers.' "

The Carolina Hurricanes, trying to nose out Ottawa for first in the East, is relying on returning players and farmhands to see them through until June.

Mark Eaton, one half of Nashville's top defensive pairing, will be out of the lineup a few weeks, meaning the Predators might have to get back in the Brendan Witt sweepstakes after declaring the Washington Capitals' price too steep.

ICE CHIPS

Wayne Gretzky was asked about coaching Phoenix next season and had a surprisingly vague answer. "It's just day to day right now," he said. "I love what I do (but) right now, I'm just trying to get through each and every day and to get our team ready for each and every game. Once the season is ended, we'll sit down and figure out what goes on in the future." Gretzky, as part owner and governor, has an open-ended contract to coach, and co-owner Steve Ellman wants him to stay behind the bench ... Ownership in Atlanta say GM Don Waddell won't be canned if the Thrashers miss the playoffs a sixth time ... It's believed Fredrik Modin was the only Swede to miss the big party in Stockholm after the gold-medal win. The Lightning was worried he'd miss Tuesday's game against Florida and asked him to get back. A very disappointed Modin came home in time to get clobbered 8-2 by Florida ...The Sens are visiting owner Eugene Melnyk's horse farm in Ocala, Fla., after Monday's game in Tampa.


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