TURIN -- The Great One is looking for a Next One to step up for Team Canada.
The question is: Who is it?
Will it be Vinny Lecavalier, Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards or Dany Heatley?
Wayne Gretzky needs a hero now.
The team's executive director believes it's the young blood that can save a Canadian hockey team that is reeling after after back-to-back losses and has gone goal-less for 120 minutes and 34 seconds,
"As much as Steve (Yzerman) and Mario (Lemieux) did for the group in 2002, we're seeing that with Joe (Sakic) and Martin (Brodeur) and those guys here," said Gretzky yesterday. "But in 2002, some of the young guys really stepped up for us. Guys like (Jarome) Iginla, (Ed) Jovanovski and (Eric) Brewer really came through.
"These young guys here, they've got to step up, too. I'm not trying to put any extra pressure on these guys, but if they step up, that will take some pressure off the older guys. We need some of these young guys to step up right now ... that was a big difference for us in 2002."
Curiously, among the young stars, Nash and Heatley played only about 10 minutes each against the Finns.
Trying to get back on track, Canada has decided to go back to playing a more North American-style game, with some of the players not having adapted well to the big international ice surface.
The young players are aware they have to do a better job if they're going to have a shot at the gold. After today's game against the Czechs, Canada will be right into the quarter-final against a tough opponent.
"We had a good talk (as a team)," said Lecavalier, who has been playing with St. Louis and Ryan Smyth. "We're definitely playing too far away from each other on the big ice. We've got a lot of leadership on the team. We do have to step it up. We have to step it up and play with confidence. Going two games with no goals doesn't mean we can't score."
But even the players are starting to wonder when they're going to put the puck in the net again.
"There's a lot of newness on our team," associate coach Ken Hitchcock said. "The players are starting to understand there's a difference playing in the World Cup and playing in the Olympics. We're not just playing against a bunch of NHL players. We're playing against guys who are playing for their country.
"The players are understanding there is a whole other level of intensity. We've got eight guys left over from the (2002) Olympics and we've got 14 or 15 new players in the mix. We're trying to speed up a process that normally takes time.
"Our guys are finding out that there's a big difference between facing a guy in the NHL and facing a guy who is playing for the flag on his chest. And they're going to have to learn quick."
That's why the veteran players are trying to calm the waters.
"We're concerned with the way we're playing because some guys are tentative," Sakic said. "We know we're a good team and we've just got make some adjustments and we'll be okay. The message (yesterday) was the same as it was four years ago. What has happened so far doesn't really matter. We've got time here to get this going and I'm confident we'll be able to do that."