February 12, 2006
Canuck blue line black and blue
MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

Will there be wheelchairs waiting for Team Canada defencemen at Pearson International Airport when they arrive at the gate today?

It might be a good idea, given the banged-up state of the Canadian blue line.

Already missing Ed Jovanovski and Scott Niedermayer due to injury, coach Pat Quinn now can only hope that veterans Rob Blake and Chris Pronger can play through pain and provide the leadership they exhibited in Salt Lake City four years ago.

While banged-up, both players said yesterday they still plan on playing in Italy.

Pronger logged more than 27 minutes on Friday night against the Minnesota Wild, despite the fact that a recent MRI revealed a hairline fracture in his foot. He will likely meet with Team Canada's medical staff tomorrow.

Blake, meanwhile, did not finish Colorado's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday because of a groin injury. He is listed as questionable for the Avs' game in Detroit today.

"It's good to hear they feel they can play for us," Quinn said last night. "Being down four defencemen instead of two would have been a serious issue.

"It's a good thing we have so much depth on defence. We've already dipped into that pool by bringing in (Dan) Boyle and (Jay) Bouwmeester."

The Jovanovski injury allowed the Maple Leafs' Bryan McCabe to move from the taxi squad on to the 23-man roster.

"Obviously, Rob and Chris are both Norris Trophy winners who bring a lot of leadership and experience to the team," McCabe said. "They are big parts of our team.

"There are a lot of guys banged-up this season. The condensed schedule is really taking its toll."

As players trickle into Toronto the next two days, the coaching staff will meet this morning to discuss details such as line combinations.

Some will fly into town. Others, such as assistant coach Jacques Martin, goalie Roberto Luongo and Bouwmeester, were scheduled to arrive via limo from Buffalo, where their Florida Panthers took on the Sabres last night.

Once most of the players are in Toronto, they will congregate at a local rink tomorrow afternoon for their first official practice as a team.

Then it's off to the airport, where a jet will wing members of Team Canada and their families to Turin. On Tuesday, they will immediately have a practice in order to adjust to the time change.

"It's a good idea," McCabe said. "We did it a couple of years ago when we got off the plane in Sweden for training camp. It helps to get your legs going again."

Canada's first game is Wednesday against the host Italians.