Games on for Mario
Lemieux ready to return
By BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun
Canadian captain Mario Lemieux jokes with Roberto Luongo after the goalie's save during an intra-squad game last night at the Corel Centre. (Ottawa Sun/Suzanne Bird)
Super Mario is ready for takeoff.
Nine months after the Pittsburgh Penguins captain last suited up for a game, Mario Lemieux declared last night that he'll be on the ice for Team Canada in tonight's rematch against Team USA in a World Cup exhibition game at the Corel Centre.
Lemieux laughed off speculation that he was hurt after being a healthy scratch for Canada's 3-1 loss to the Americans on Monday in Columbus, Ohio.
"I'm excited about getting the chance to play. I feel a lot better than I thought I would," said Lemieux, 38, who had hip surgery last season. "We've had some good workouts and now I'm looking forward to the opportunity to play in some games.
"I feel good. I've worked hard. I had no choice but to have the surgery if I wanted to play again. I've been looking forward to this."
Team Canada coach Pat Quinn shifted his lines for last night's practice and three-on-three scrimmage at the Corel Centre, but left intact Lemieux' line with Tampa Bay 's Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis.
Lemieux said neither player should be nervous about lining up with him tonight.
"I'm sure we'll see how things go and then we'll talk about a few things after the game," said Lemieux. "They're both talented players and they both know what to do with the puck. We've talked a bit about things in practice.
"I talked to Brad Richards about the fact that you don't have to try to force things and not worry about that stuff. They just have to relax and play their game. I'm sure we'll sit down as a group after the first game and see where things stand."
By changing every other line last night, Quinn delivered a message that he wasn't happy with Canada's performance in Monday's loss. The other lines were, from left to right, Kirk Maltby-Kris Draper-Simon Gagne; Ryan Smyth-Vincent Lecavalier-Dany Heatley; Brendan Morrow-Joe Thornton-Shane Doan; and Jarome Iginla-Joe Sakic-Patrick Marleau.
"What we're trying to do right now is find the right combinations and we're going to try several things," said associate coach Jacques Martin. "We were pleased with the way we played in the first period in Columbus, but we weren't happy with what happened after that.
"We didn't compete hard enough. Team USA raised their intensity and we weren't able to match it. We have to be better than that. It's only the first couple of days, but we want to see how guys look in certain situations."
Some defensive pairings were also changed. Ottawa's Wade Redden played with Ed Jovanovski while his former partner, Adam Foote, teamed with Eric Brewer. Scott Niedermayer-Robin Reghr and Scott Hannan-Jay Bouwmeester stayed intact.
"I've played with Jovanovski a little bit at the world junior championships, but I don't think we were on the ice together that much. I'm sure the coaching staff is just trying to switch some things up and see where everybody fits. We'll see how it looks in a game," said Redden.