Leafs have Olympic fever

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:13 AM ET

BOSTON -- Come February, Mats Sundin will travel to Turin sporting the prestigious "C" on his blue-and-gold jersey -- and a huge target on his chest.

Bestowed with the honour of being named captain of Team Sweden for the second consecutive Winter Olympics, Sundin will be considered fair game by his own Maple Leafs teammates.

Defenceman Bryan McCabe, for example, was asked if he would try to lay Sundin out if the opportunity presented itself in Italy.

"Of course," McCabe said. "Heck, I try to do it to him in practice when I get the chance."

Informed of McCabe's comments, Sundin just laughed.

"I know Caber would never do that to me," the Toronto captain said. "I've been taking care of him for many years since he came to Toronto."

Sundin and McCabe, who is on Team Canada's three-man taxi squad, are among the six Maple Leafs selected to the various Olympic rosters this week.

QUALITY

Also making the trip to Turin are Swedish goalie MikaelTellqvist, defenceman Aki Berg of Finland, Czech Republic defenceman Tomas Kaberle and forward Nik Antropov of Kazakhstan.

"Having that many guys going over is an indication that we have some quality performers on our team," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said.

Off the ice, of course, Quinn returns as coach of the Canadians. Leafs scouting co-ordinator Reid Mitchell also is expected to be part of the Team Canada entourage as video analyst, the role he occupied at the 2004 World Cup.

Sundin, 34, arguably was the most dominant player at the Salt Lake City games of 2002. Unfortunately, he'll always be remembered for the famous moment in which he is on his knees staring up at the heavens after Sweden's upset loss to Belarus.

Goalie Tommy Salo was considered the goat in Sweden after that loss for allowing the winning goal from centre ice. This time around, the New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist is expected to be the starter, with Tellqvist backing him up.

"I proud to be attending my third Olympics and it's flattering to be captain but I don't think about (2002)," Sundin said. "Right now my focus is on the Maple Leafs. It's good to see Mikael there. He has been fortunate to back up Eddie (Belfour) all these years. He has learned a lot."

Kaberle and the Czechs are coming off a gold-medal performance at the world championship last spring, one which included a victory over Canada in the championship game.

Will history repeat itself in Turin?

"We showed in the World Cup and the world championship that we can play teams tough," said Kaberle, who is representing his country for the fifth time."But this will be a difficult tournament."


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