Hands off the panic button

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

INNSBRUCK, Austria -- Even though Team Canada is cruising along with an unbeaten record in the world championship, the offensive imbalance remains a concern.

Exclude the contributions of the top line of Rick Nash, Simon Gagne and Joe Thornton and there is very little left.

Canada has scored 17 goals in this tournament and that line has 11.

But any worry about this development seems to be confined to the media, at least as far as public consumption is concerned.

The players are shrugging it off.

The line that is under the most scrutiny is the second unit of Shane Doan, Brendan Morrison and Dany Heatley.

Morrison, who played in Sweden this winter, appears to be fine. He has three goals.

But both Doan and Heatley have been shut out, even though Heatley put in a full season over here as well.

Like everyone else connected with the team, coach Marc Habscheid professes to be unconcerned.

"They'll break out," he said.

"No question. They're both good players. Eventually, the puck will go in. They're very good National Hockey League players. It's just a matter of time until they break out."

Doan says, not unreasonably: "I've played seven games, so I'm in my seventh game of training camp.

"It's coming," he continued, smiling as usual. "But the timing isn't there, it's just little things.

"As much as you want to train, you haven't played a game and played in a real game situation. You just can't simulate it. You definitely miss it.

"You bobble pucks, you miss passes, you miss guys who are open. You don't see the ice quite as clearly and you tend to take a little bit more time."

In Heatley's case, it just appears to be more a matter of confusion. Sometimes he's in the wrong place. On other occasions, he doesn't press his advantage.

He has the ability to cross the blue line on the right side, cruise along parallel to the line and then wire a screaming shot. He scored that way against the Latvians in an exhibition game, but has made only one move of that nature so far in the tournament.

Heatley is nowhere near as personable as Doan and doesn't like to be introspective. He simply said, "Other lines are doing a great job. Other lines are putting the puck in the net. We're winning the games and that's the bottom line right now."

It must be said there's nothing even remotely close to panic on the Canadian team about the drought of Heatley and Doan.

The first phase of the tournament is over, but there's a lot more to come.

"Heater and I were talking on the bench," Doan said.

"The first three are big. The next three are even bigger. The last three are the biggest, so we've just got to continue to get better. As long as we do that, we'll be fine."

It was suggested to Heatley that perhaps he misses Daniel Briere, who was his linemate last year when he was named MVP of the tournament.

That wasn't an excuse Heatley was ready to make.

"I don't think that is true," he said. "Look at the last two tournaments with Danny, it took the first three games to click. It's no different here. I feel really comfortable playing with Mo and Doaner. Hopefully its just a matter of time."

Doan shared the sentiment.

"It's really just time," he said.

"I think in the last game, it started to come and I'm starting to feel that around the net, instead of rushing the pass, I can take that one more second."

Both of these guys are gifted scorers.

With some other players, you might feel that they were just making excuses.

But with these two, you get the idea that they are giving reasons.

It is indeed just a matter of time before they break out.


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