Canadians up to speed in no time

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

Five days earlier, best guess was it'd take a jackhammer weeks to chip away the rust.

However, when Team Canada's training camp wrapped up yesterday at Father David Bauer Arena, you could see most of it was already gone.

Crisp tape-to-tape passes were the norm, shots were hitting the corners and the goalies were finding their groove.

Most importantly, the pace had quickened significantly from Day 1, a fact that didn't escape Phoenix Coyote Shane Doan.

"Everybody's definitely winding it up," Doan said. "The coaches have done a good job of pushing us but knowing there are guys like myself who needed a bit of time to get it winding up.

"The guys are feeling good but when we play those couple of exhibition games, we'll notice it a bit more. Getting hit and giving hits will take it to another level."

About half of the Canadian squad hasn't play in organized leagues since the NHL lockout began in September, a far cry from the European teams that will be filled with players who've just finished their seasons with club teams.

The fitness level of some Canadian players was a concern going into the camp but assistant coach Tom Renney said he's certain it won't be a factor now.

"Their fitness level coming in was pretty good," Renney said. "I think we were all pleasantly surprised by that. The last couple of days, we were able to spend more time working on drills."

Looking to claim the nation's third straight world championship crown at the tournament that runs April 30 to May 15 in Austria, Canada will play exhibition games against the U.S. in Halifax and Quebec City before crossing the Atlantic.

The Canadians also will skate in pre-tournament games against Latvia and the Czech Republic before starting the tourney April 30 against Latvia.

Those exhibition games will be critical for finalizing the lines, especially since Boston's Joe Thornton and Columbus' Rick Nash weren't part of the camp.

Although this appears to be Canada's strongest entry for this tournament, that also will be the case for other teams, especially the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Which, Doan said, will make for a great tournament.

"The excitement started as soon as we got the call," he said.

"You can see guys working on little things, getting into the mindset of playing real hockey."


Videos

Photos