Babcock switches up pairings

Updated: August 26, 2009, 9:33 PM ET
Associated Press

CALGARY -- Sidney Crosby's brush with danger at Canada's Olympic orientation camp happened in the middle of a river and was followed by plenty of laughter. Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla's latest contest was waged on a golf course and followed up with some playful trash talk.

The 40-plus Olympic hopefuls in Calgary this week are having all kinds of fun together and it's all being done in the name of chemistry. After getting shut out three times at the 2006 Olympics en route to a seventh-place finish, Rick Nash cited a lack of team chemistry as one of the reasons for the failure.

"There was so much firepower on the team, maybe just not the right chemistry," Nash said Wednesday. "It's tough to look back and say what happened. There was no reason why we shouldn't have had scoring power."

It's no secret that one of the goals Steve Yzerman and his Olympic management group have set for this orientation camp is to try to build some rapport amongst the players.

While the ultimate success of those efforts won't truly be known until the Olympic tournament is played in February, the early returns seem good. There was a somewhat lighter atmosphere on the third day of camp -- perhaps not surprisingly since the players spent the morning playing golf, fly fishing or simply relaxing.

Crosby was among the handful of guys who took to the river and had the group in stitches because of a casting mishap.

"Sometimes we can laugh at each other," said defenseman Francois Beauchemin. "Sid almost hooked himself in the back of the head. That was fun to see."

Meanwhile, an intense game was being waged on the links in a foursome that included Iginla, Doan, Dany Heatley and Jordan Staal.

Iginla and Heatley won a little bit of money against their opponents.

"Dany Heatley and I had some chemistry against those guys," said Iginla. "We had a good day."

Doan had a slightly different take on the event. He was questioning whether the twosome was using its proper handicaps in the match.

"He ended up winning money because he set up another game where he kind of had the advantage," said Doan. "Dan Heatley and Iggy were sandbagging in that game. [Iginla] didn't make as much as he planned on making."

The only place there wasn't much laughter was on the ice at the Pengrowth Saddledome, where coach Mike Babcock put the two groups of skaters through a high-paced practice for the third consecutive day.

There was even a point in the first practice when Babcock stopped a drill, gathered the players around and instructed them to do it better. His intensity has been on display all week.

"It's the Stanley Cup playoffs every day for Mike and I think that's a good thing," said Kevin Lowe, one of the team's executives.

Added defenseman Scott Niedermayer: "He's done a good job at the camp really being black and white, letting everybody know what's wanted and demanded from the players. He is into the details, but it's very quick and it's very direct. There's not a lot of gray areas. He tells you exactly what he wants and expects us to do it."

Babcock shook up all of his line pairings Wednesday, replacing Iginla with Martin St. Louis on the top unit with Crosby and Nash.

The coach seems intent on keeping Crosby and Nash together: "I think there's something there."

Iginla ended up skating on a line with Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews, who was moved to the wing after lining up at center over the opening two days.

Even though Babcock has repeatedly warned reporters not to read too much into his lines, there's a growing sentiment among some of the players that they are a good indication of what he's thinking.

"No one knows what the combinations are going to be as far as players and who's going to be around," said Toews. "The coaching staff, I think they're starting to maybe get their own ideas."

The camp wraps up Thursday night with a scrimmage between the two groups of players. More than 16,000 tickets have been sold for the game.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press