Spezza: Turin or bust

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:05 PM ET

OTTAWA -- Jason Spezza gladly will fly to Turin and then become part of a taxi squad if that's what it takes to be a part of Team Canada.

The same goes for Bryan McCabe.

Neither Spezza, the Ottawa Senators' fine young centre, nor McCabe, the Maple Leafs' high-scoring defenceman, are expected to be a part of the 23-man roster Canada will announce Wednesday for the 2006 Winter Olympics. But now there could be a stronger chance they will spend a few weeks in Italy in February with the revelation the IIHF has given the hockey teams the go-ahead for a three-man taxi squad to be used in emergency situations.

"Definitely, I would go in any role," said the 22-year-old Spezza, who entered last night's game against the Leafs seventh in NHL scoring with 43 points. "First and foremost I would like to go over and play, and if they are bringing more guys over, it increases the chances of going."

Of the three young forwards for Canada to consider -- Spezza, Sidney Crosby and Eric Staal -- the consensus is Crosby has the inside spot to being named to the initial roster.

McCabe led NHL defencemen in scoring prior to last night with 38 points, and was nine ahead of the second-highest scoring blueliner, Lubomir Visnovsky of the Los Angeles Kings. Other defencemen who could be named to the taxi squad include Dan Boyle of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dion Phaneuf of the Calgary Flames.

"(A spot as a reserve) would be fine for anyone," McCabe said. "Everyone wants to go, but there is only a certain amount of spots. We'll see what happens."

Leafs coach Pat Quinn will be behind Canada's bench after guiding the club to a gold medal in Salt Lake City in 2002 and is in complete favour of taking three more players. Hockey Canada brass has not yet decided whether the three-man group will be named on Wednesday. The taxi squad does not have to be identified until 24 hours before the hockey games start at the Olympics.

"It provides us three more guys in case of an injury and there is some chance (injuries)will happen," Quinn said. "We play a lot of games in a short time, so this is pretty good foresight. It's wise that all teams are allowed to have three extra guys."

A final conference call will be held on Wednesday morning in the hours prior to the announcement.


Videos

Photos