Games near Boyle point

By DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI AGENCY

SAN JOSE -- Dan Boyle is hoping this Olympic experience will be better than the last.

The San Jose Sharks defenceman was on the taxi squad at the 2006 games in Turin, Italy, meaning he couldn't play unless someone was injured and unable to continue in the tournament.

So Boyle could only watch as Canada went on to finish a disappointing seventh at the Games.

'VERY FRUSTRATING'

"It was a very frustrating experience," Boyle said. "It wasn't one that I'll remember too fondly, mostly because the team wasn't doing very well. I think had the team been doing well, it would have been a much better experience, even though I wasn't playing, because you have friends on the team, you're cheering for the team and you're winning. So the fact that we were losing and that I wasn't playing was a tough combination."

This time around, Boyle is expected to be a key contributor toward Team Canada's quest for a gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics in February. He was one of seven defenceman named to the squad on Wednesday.

"The difference now is that No. 1, you're playing and No. 2, it's in Canada," Boyle said. "I'm looking forward to it, but it's still over a month away and we have a lot of hockey left to be played here."

Despite not playing in Turin, Boyle did get a chance to experience the Games as a member of the team. The three extra bodies Team Canada took to Italy still practised with the squad an attended all team functions. This year there is no taxi squad.

"I got to see how hectic it is and how crazy it's going to get," Boyle said. "They do a great job of preparing for it though. They got it down so that as a player you don't have to do very much, they take charge of all the extracurricular stuff that needs to be done and it's a lot. Fortunately they do a good job."

STRONG CAMPAIGN

Boyle, 33, is having another strong campaign on the Sharks blue line. The Ottawa native has eight goals and 24 assists heading into last night's game against the Edmonton Oilers.

It's expected he'll be partnered with fellow defenceman Chris Pronger.

"That's who I was paired up with in camp," Boyle said. "But I think it's one of those things that they're going to play the guys that are playing well. Every guy on that team is interchangeable. There are so many good hockey players that it's going to go on a shift-by-shift basis."

Boyle is one of eight Sharks taking part in the Olympics. He along with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley will suit up for Canada, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov will play for Russia, Douglas Murray is on Sweden's roster, while Joe Pavelski and Thomas Greiss will represent the U.S. and Germany, respectively.

Pavelski found out he was going to the Olympics Friday as the U.S. roster was announced following the Winter Classic in Boston.

"I've talked to some guys about it a little bit, but don't think I quite understand what it's going to be like," Pavelski said. "It's one of those things that as it gets closer, the more excited you get, but then it zaps all your energy for what you have to do that day. So it's important to keep it in perspective and take it as a process, then at the end look back and enjoy what you've done.

"But it's representing your country and I can't even imagine how many people will be watching."

The Sharks will have the highest representation of NHL teams at the Games.

The fact they're one of the top teams in the league and are expected to challenge for Stanley Cup is cause for some concern. Other contending teams will be able to rest a majority of their roster during the Olympics.

"Back when I was in Detroit, we had six Swedes play in the Olympics and they went on to win the championship," said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. "We figured that they were going to be pretty tired when they came back and that they be mentally spent.

'SOME CONCERN'

"Everyone in Edmonton knows how it ended (lost in first round to Oilers), so there are some concerns. There has to be a game plan and there is a game plan in place as far a mental and physical rest. But there is nothing we can do about it, they've earned that right and they earned that chance to play. We'll be happy for them, want them to compete at the highest level, then come back and make that push for us."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA

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