Will Gretzky gamble on Nash?

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:47 PM ET

By the time Wayne Gretzky unveils the roster for the 2006 Canadian Olympic team next Wednesday, Rick Nash may have scored his first goal of the NHL season.

Or not.

The injury-plagued Nash, 21, feels his healing left knee will be strong enough to return to the Columbus Blue Jackets lineup in one of the team's next three games -- tonight in Nashville, Tuesday in Detroit or at home against the Dallas Stars Wednesday.

Either way, the Nash dilemma could be one of the most intriguing decisions facing Team Canada officials.

Do they take a chance on Nash, an extremely talented offensive force who has played just three games and collected zero points this season because of knee and high ankle ailments?

Do they gamble on the young power forward being back in tip-top shape come February in Turin?

Do they bank on the rekindled chemistry between Nash and sure bets Joe Thornton and Simon Gagne, who combined to be the dominant line at both the world championship in May and at Team Canada's training camp in B.C. three months later?

The personable Nash, a native of Brampton, certainly hopes the answer is yes to all three questions.

"Obviously it's been one of my dreams to play for Canada at the Olympics," Nash said during a phone interview from Nashville yesterday. "I really would be disappointed if I wasn't picked.

"When February comes, I'll be 100% healthy, no problem."

Even so, a player on the roster who has a legitimate injury can be replaced up to the start of the Olympic hockey tournament.

Still a raw teenager at the time, Nash took the hockey world by storm in 2003-04 by scoring 41 times, making him a co-winner of of the Maurice Richard Trophy for the NHL's top goal-scorer along with Jarome Iginla and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Next came a stint in Switzerland during the lockout, where he teamed with Thornton to lead Davos to the Swiss elite league championship.

But the best came during the 2005 world championship, at which the Nash-Thornton-Gagne line dominated the scoring race. Thornton led all players with 16 points, one more than Nash and six up on Gagne, who finished third.

"The three of us worked very well together and I'd love the chance to be reunited with those guys," Nash said. "It definitely was a good line.

"But right now it's out of my hands. I haven't talked to anyone from Team Canada since the orientation camp, so I'll be watching the announcement on Wednesday just like everyone else."

The health issue is certain to be the determining factor. Nash, who missed 12 of the Jackets' first 13 games because of a high ankle sprain, returned to the lineup only to suffer a left knee sprain two games later.

"It's been a tough season, and I understand if they want to look at guys like Eric Staal, Jason Spezza or Sidney Crosby. I really want to go but, if not, I'll have another chance in four years (in Vancouver.)"

Deep down, Nash would rather not wait that long.

BUBBLE BOY BOYLE

Another player said to be on the bubble for Team Canada is the Tampa Bay Lightning's Dan Boyle, a native of Ottawa.

While Maple Leafs defenceman Bryan McCabe has received endless hype for his 35-point start to the season, Boyle quietly has flown under the radar despite ranking second among Canadian-born defencemen in goals (nine) and points (27).

"I don't want to make a big deal out of it, but I'm just not a high-profile player, I guess," Boyle, 29, said. "There are a lot of guys there who were in the (2004) World Cup. They have the reputation. There is a lot of loyalty there."

Boyle said being part of the Turin experience "would mean the world. You want to play for your country. I've got my Stanley Cup. Olympic gold would be right next to it."

Yet even he might be surprised if selected.

"Just like I said, you get lost in the shuffle. It's frustrating but what can you do? You just have to hope."

DOUBTING DOAN

Phoenix Coyotes forward Shane Doan wonders about his odds of making Team Canada. But he's not about to ask Gretzky, who is both his coach with the Coyotes and the executive director of the Olympic team.

"Obviously I would love it," Doan said. "But I also realize there is incredible depth with Hockey Canada. There are 100 guys that probably could be on that team."

Gretzky said Doan still is in the mix.

"The coaching staff loves his work ethic. He's won a world championship (2003) and a World Cup. He was part of that group that was successful and they have a great amount of respect for Shane," Gretzky said.

CHRISTMAS SHOPPING BLUES?

Sources told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Blues owners Bill and Nancy Laurie are in negotiations withNew York-based Matlin Patterson Global Advisors to sell the team and the Savvis Center lease. Reports suggest a letter of intent could be signed any day now and that the Lauries have set a date of Jan. 1 to complete the deal. Matlin Patterson is a private equity firm that manages $2.2 billion in assets.

AULD LANG SYNE FOR FISCHER?

While Jiri Fischer remains reluctant to close the door on his career due to heart problems, Robert Lang, his friend and Detroit Red Wings teammate, figures retirement likely is inevitable.

"When the time is right, in his mind, he'll probably announce it and that's it,"Lang said.

SHORT AND SWEET

Veteran Mark Recchi didn't mince words when asked to describe incoming Pittsburgh Penguins coach Michel Therrien. "He's a hard ass," Recchi said.


Videos

Photos