Upside gives Price edge for Canada

SOCHI, Russia -- Carey Price and Roberto Luongo are splitting the opening two games of the Olympics, but the sense you get, even if nobody with Team Canada is saying it, is that the tournament will belong to Price, the Montreal Canadiens star, unless he fumbles his chance.

I've believed all along that Canadian GM Steve Yzerman, while he would never admit it publicly, sees in Price a rising netminder who has a little more upside than the veteran Luongo at this point in his career.

That's no slight to Luongo, who provides a safe alternative if Price falters, having turned in a gold-medal performance in 2010. It's just that you get the sense this is Price's moment to shine.

First up for Price as Canada opens its defense of the Olympic title is Norway on Thursday.

"Obviously I'm thrilled and I'm just ready to go," Price said Wednesday after practice. "It's definitely a highlight. I seem to have had a lot in my young life so far but this definitely ranks up there.

"We all knew coming into this that anything could happen and that anybody could be starting. We were all mentally prepared for that. We'll just continue to do the same things we've been doing all year."

Luongo will start the second game against Austria before the Canadian coaching staff decides who gets to roll the rest of the way.

"For me, I just want to be ready for whenever I'm called upon," Luongo said. "As we saw last time, things change quickly. Whoever is playing doesn't matter as long as all three guys are ready to play."

Well, the Vancouver Canucks netminder certainly has a point there. Luongo came out of the bullpen and replaced Martin Brodeur as starter in 2010 after a preliminary-round loss to the U.S. In 2002, Curtis Joseph got the opening Olympic assignment but was pulled in favor of Brodeur the rest of the way after Canada was thumped by Sweden in Game 1.

So you really just never know.

"We're all here to play for Team Canada, man,'' Luongo said. "It's not about one player. We're all pulling on the same rope. It's a team game right now. It's not about Roberto Luongo or Carey Price or Mike Smith. It's about being a part of Team Canada.

"It doesn't matter what role you are given, you have to embrace it and accept it."