Ward gets crease call

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

QUEBEC CITY -- After winning the semifinal over Sweden, Team Canada head coach Ken Hitchcock didn't hesitate to name Cam Ward his starting goaltender for today's gold medal game against Russia.

But he wasn't quite as emphatic as Russian coach Vtyacheslav Bykov when it came to his decision to start Evgeny Nabokov.

"Yes," he said of going with the San Jose Sharks goaltender. "I don't want to put my head on the chopping block."

Hitchcock is merely sticking to the rotation he's had since the tournament began, which was set up so that, unless it was obvious to everybody he had to go another way, he wouldn't put himself in the situation of having to sit his own Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Pascal Leclaire for the gold medal game.

Last year Team Canada went with a rotation of Dwayne Roloson of the Edmonton Oilers and Ward, who plays for the Carolina Hurricanes. But that system ended before the final, when Ward was between the pipes.

With Leclaire not playing particularly well in the semifinal against Sweden, there was no temptation to go back to him.

And why would you, when you have Ward, who won Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final against the Oilers two years ago and the IIHF World Championship gold medal against Finland last year?

Ward can't wait. He believes he's been blessed to get this game.

"I want to enjoy the moment," he said. "It's important to embrace it. You don't want to go out there thinking about the what-ifs.

"It's in Canada," he said of the first time the event has been held here to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the IIHF. "It's Canada-Russia. That's pretty neat. Canadian fans will be here cheering for us. We'll have a home atmosphere. All we can do is give it everything we have on the ice."

Ward, like all the members of Team Canada, is well aware that no host country has won this thing since the Soviet Union back in 1986.

"Come ask me about that after the game," he laughed.

To go from winning a Game 7 of a Stanley Cup final to winning a gold medal last year was one thing, but this is something else again, he says.

"It's a huge bonus. I feel privileged, very fortunate to play in a Game 7 of a Stanley Cup final and now two straight gold medal games.

"It's hard to compare anything to winning the Stanley Cup, but winning the gold medal last year was as close as you could come. It's so different. Stanley Cups are series. This is one game, do or die."

And with Alexander Ovechkin and a very talented Russian team, a star-studded Canadian team and the event being held here makes it extra special, said Ward.

"They are very capable of putting the puck in the net," he said.

"They had a strong team last year, too," he said of the Russians losing to Finland in the semifinal in Moscow last year.

Ward said the thought has occurred to him that winning back to back golds in goal would have to put him in the thought process to be considered for one of the goaltending positions for Team Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

"It all helps you out," he said. "You are always thinking about the Olympics in 2010. It helps to get noticed.

"Hockey is Canada. We all know everybody is going to be watching this game."


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