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Quinn ready to lead Canada in 'Drive for Five'

The Canadian Press

12/11/2008 9:37:07 PM

OTTAWA - Three practices and three games is all Pat Quinn gets in order to decide who plays for Canada's junior hockey team.

Quinn had never met some of the 38 players who arrived Thursday for selection camp. He'll have to get to know them in a hurry.

''I see this is a big test, the next three days and not only to read the talent levels,'' Quinn said. ''Making the right picks here in three days may not be enough time, so we're really going to rely on our scouts and league people who know these young men a lot better than we do.

''Hopefully we pick the right guys. It's not going to be easy.''

Selection camp is shorter than it used to be. It was four and a half days up until last year, when it was reduced by a day.

Players have limited ice time to impress Quinn. A morning skate and an evening intrasquad game are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, but just an intrasquad game is on Sunday's agenda. The 22-player team will be named Monday.

Canada goes for a fifth straight gold medal when it opens the 2009 world junior hockey championship in Ottawa on Dec. 26 versus the Czech Republic.

Hockey Canada contracted camp to reduce the number of days the players are taken away from their respective junior clubs, while also allowing the players chosen for the team to conserve energy for subsequent exhibition games and the world junior tournament.

''It's never enough time,'' Hockey Canada head scout Al Murray of selection camp. ''If you have enough time, the players cut themselves. We don't have that luxury.

''We have a lot of guys who are similar in abilities and it's a real tough thing to try and get the right guys in the right mix, but we'll try to get that done.''

The coach of Canada's junior team coach traditionally has an August camp to look over prospective players. But Quinn was a late replacement for Benoit Groulx, who decided in September to pursue a coaching career in the American Hockey League.

Quinn coached 11 of the invited players to gold at the world under-18 hockey championship earlier this year. He scouted six games of the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge, which featured almost all the players invited to selection camp.

In addition to Murray, who chose the players for selection camp, Quinn has assistant coaches from each of the three leagues - Dave Cameron (OHL), Guy Boucher (QMJHL) and Willie Desjardins (WHL) - to fill in gaps in his knowledge about a particular player.

''He's got not a real good book on some of the players, but he's got some familiarity with most of the kids who are coming in here,'' Murray said. ''He has an idea of their strengths and weaknesses and one thing he wanted was three days of scrimmages to give everybody an opportunity to see their strengths and weaknesses.

''I think he has a good idea on the type of players he wants and it's up to those guys to step up and show what they can do.''

None of the eight Canadian teenagers currently playing in the NHL came here Thursday and thus will not play in the world junior tournament.

Six of them -  Colton Gillies (Minnesota), Kyle Turris (Phoenix), Brandon Sutter (Carolina), Drew Doughty (Los Angeles), Luke Schenn (Toronto), Steve Stamkos (Tampa Bay) - helped Canada win gold the previous world junior championship in the Czech Republic.

Edmonton Oilers' forward Sam Gagner, 19, played for Canada at the 2006 world junior tournament. Josh Bailey, also 19, is a forward with the New York Islanders.

''We thought we might get a couple,'' Quinn said. ''It wasn't anything the teams were giving us indications on. We looked at some players who weren't getting a lot of playing time and thought it made sense to come here.

''I've always said it's not about who is not here. It's about who is here. We've got lots of good young men and we'll make a good team.''

Barry Melrose, fired as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, recently told a Toronto radio station that Stamkos wasn't ready for the NHL. But Tampa Bay didn't let Stamkos to participate in the junior team's summer evaluation camp, so he wouldn't have been eligible to play for Canada anyway.

Belleville defencemen PK Subban, Seattle defenceman Thomas Hickey, Oshawa forward John Tavares and Lethbridge forward Zach Boychuk are Canada's four returning players from the team that won the country's fourth straight gold in the Czech Republic

''We have to set a good example in this camp,'' Subban said. ''If we come into camp and we aren't the best players I think the coaching staff has something to think about.

''It's our responsibility to come in and set the tone right away.''

Players were examined by Hockey Canada's medical staff upon arrival. It's common for a player to be sent home with mononucleosis or an injury, even though he tries to hide his condition in order to try out for the team.

''These young men, making this hockey team is very important, so we're cautious that some of them aren't as forthright as they should be,'' Quinn said.

While Regina Pats forward Jordan Eberle said his hip flexor injury was healed, Brandon Wheat Kings forward Matt Calvert arrived with a sore lower back.

''Every kid wants to play on this team and I finally got my chance to try out for it and I've got an injury,'' Calvert said. ''Obviously it's impeding me in my skating and I'd love to get out there and compete for a spot on the Canadian team.

''All I can do is wait and see if I get a chance to skate this weekend.''

Players spent their time in transit wondering what they had to do to impress Quinn.

''There's a lot of good goalscorers, so I might go towards penalty killing or an energy kind of role, but I can still score and I believe in that too,'' Calgary Hitmen forward Brett Sonne said.

Brampton Battalion forward Cody Hodgson has an idea of what will get him on the team because Hodgson played for Quinn at the under-18 championship.

''I just know he likes a two-way hockey player who doesn't cheat offensively,'' Hodgson said.