Canadian GMs monitoring international interests

Doug Armstrong and Steve Yzerman aren't joined at the hip, although there are times when you would never know it.

Doug Armstrong and Steve Yzerman aren't joined at the hip, although there are times when you would never know it.

Armstrong is the general manager for Canada's entry at the 2009 world hockey championship in Zurich, Switzerland, while Yzerman has the same role with Canada's Olympic team competing at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

They have been calling each other at least daily for the last few months, talking about this player or that player, with one eye on winning the world championship, and the other on Olympic gold in February.

"We keep in constant contact about what is going on," Armstrong said Thursday, with a sheepish smile on his face on the eve of the opening of the 16-team world tournament.

Canada is no different than most of the top teams entered in the world championship, which starts Friday with two games in Bern and two contests in Zurich, including Canada's curtain-raiser against Belarus.

The Canadians, like the Finns, Swedes and Americans, are a collection of veterans of the international stage with a good measure of top young talent hoping to make an impression on Armstrong and Yzerman.

Hockey Canada will announce its Olympic coaching staff at the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs, along with the roster of players who will be invited to a summer training camp in Calgary.

The players to watch here include Steve Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, defencemen Luke Schenn of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Nashville's Shea Webber and Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings.

The hope is the youngsters can raise an eyebrow or two and solidify their chance of going for Olympic gold on home soil.

"The reality is the players who are fighting for spots on that Olympic team have two basic opportunities to provide proof of their play at this time of the year," said Armstrong. "If you play well in the NHL playoffs when your team needs you or you play well here for your country, then you are just proving to Steve Yzerman that when the pressure is on you can perform."

'Everybody is talking about it'

Phoenix Coyotes rugged winger Shane Doan was named captain on Thursday, marking the third time in six visits to the world tournament that he has worn the "C." He agreed that players are targeting an Olympic berth.

"There is no way there's a Canadian who plays hockey [that] is not thinking abut 2010,'' said Doan. "Everybody is talking about it."

There is precedent for a darkkorse using the world championship as a stepping stone to the Olympic rings.

Anybody remember Rob Zamuner?

He was a no-label type of player who was superb at the 1997 world tournament, and then he secured a berth on Canada's Olympic team at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.

Jagr on Czech team, Wilson is U.S. bench boss

Meanwhile, there are some other storylines to watch out for at the world tournament.

Jarmoir Jagr is playing for Czech national team for the first time since 2006, most likely with a goal of playing in Vancouver. Jagr left the NHL for Russia this season.

And Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson is back behind the USA bench — he was the U.S., bench boss at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games — and will definitely be evaluating the American roster in light of the Olympic competition.

In other news, goalie Chris Mason of the St. Louis Blues has been added to Canada's roster and will be the backup to Edmonton's Dwayne Roloson. Goaltender Fred Brathwaite was released to make room for Mason.

There is also no love lost between Mikhail Grabovski of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and brothers Andrei and Sergei Kostitisyn of the Montreal Canadiens. But at the worlds, Mikhail and Andrei will have to make peace, or at least tolerate each other, because both will suit up for Belarus. Sergei Kostitsyn remained in Hamilton to play in the AHL playoffs.