Smyth makes Olympic case

 

If getting on the Canadian Olympic team is as much about getting points as making points with the selectors with inspired play, Ryan Smyth is doing both in the first month of auditions.

 
 
 
 
 

If getting on the Canadian Olympic team is as much about getting points as making points with the selectors with inspired play, Ryan Smyth is doing both in the first month of auditions.

Of all the players on the bubble for the group of 13 forwards, Smyth has made the biggest early impact. He's got 14 points with the Los Angeles Kings, playing on a line with Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, which puts him in the top five in the league scoring.

Smyth isn't going to be a top-six Olympic forward--he wasn't in 2002 in Salt Lake City, nor in Turin in 2006--but he had to get a strong start to catch the eyes of executive director Steve Yzerman, and his lieutenants like Kevin Lowe, who has been scouting the prospects. He's got their attention.

"I'm sure a lot of us guys are thinking we're on watch," said Smyth. "I want to get off to a good start and make it a tough decision for them (selectors).I would hope I've opened some eyes. Sure, it's in the back of my mind, but I'm not letting it take over. I'm looking for our team to win games. We've got a good line in L.A.

"We've have a lot of communication going on. I told Kopitar when I got to L.A. that he had schooled me on a draw in the world championship (as a teenager playing for Slovenia) and he'd gone down the ice--thankfully, not scoring. He's really strong and people forget that he's only 22 years old. Justin has won a Stanley Cup, against us in Edmonton. I have a lot of respect for anybody who does that, but beating us (in 2006), it's magnified in my eyes. He's got a heck of a shot. We also won a gold medal together in the worlds in Prague (in 2004)," said Smyth.

Smyth is trying to get an energy-type spot-on the Olympic roster along with Brenden Morrow, Shane Doan, Dan Cleary and Milan Lucic, whose hopes took a recent jolt when he broke his finger.

Trying to pick the team two months from now is a frustrating exercise for fans and the media-- maybe for the candidates, too.

"We shouldn't be doing it, either," laughed Smyth.

People are noticing him, though.

"This is the best I've seen Smytty skate and he's plays with Kopitar. That's a real weighty line," said Olympic team assistant coach Ken Hitchcock, whose Columbus Blue Jackets have played the Kings once and have another date with them tonight in Los Angeles.

"The guys who've played well against us are the older guys... Smyth, Shane Doan (of the Phoenix Coyotes) and Jarome Iginla (Calgary Flames). They were impact players."

Smyth has no illusions on what he would be on the Olympic squad.

"Energy line for me," said Smyth, who played with Eric Lindros and Owen Nolan in Salt Lake City and Vincent Lecavalier and Doan in Turin. Smyth and Doan were two of the better players on an embarrassed, seventh-place team in Italy four years ago.

Smyth figures this year's audition isn't much different than before 2002, when he had to win people over. He broke his ankle before the selection, just getting back in time to prove that he was healthy enough to play. When he did, it was still a struggle.

"I remember icing the snot out of my foot ... it would be in an ice bucket after every single game. It helped that (Oilers trainer Ken Lowe) was also going to the Olympics, so they were looking out for my best interests," said Smyth, who fortunately had Oilers team doctor David Reid repair the ankle almost immediately to get the healing process going.

"I remember David didn't even wait until the end of the game. He got there before the swelling came. If he hadn't, you've got to wait five days, a week until it goes down," said Lowe. "It was a perfect storm for Ryan."

In Smyth's case, if he wasn't lighting it up, there are other factors with him.

"It's how he's skating... guys can be playing well and not getting points, too. But, getting off to a good start doesn't hurt. Still, we're a few weeks into the season. We're looking at guys playing consistently in November and December," said Kevin Lowe.

The management team will sit down in a couple of weeks, again in early December, and then once more a few weeks later, before the team is announced later that month.

 
 
 
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