SUN Hockey Pool

Gettin' nasty in net

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:10 AM ET

The Edmonton Oilers would probably be wearing gold rings if they hadn't lost their goalie to an injury in the Stanley Cup final last year.

And the Vancouver Canucks, nothing without superstar netminder Roberto Luongo, would be cooked if their golden goose ever got hurt.

So, as traffic around the goal creases gets hotter and heavier down the stretch, both teams expressed concern for the safety of their respective keepers yesterday.

PROTECT YOUR GOALIE

"The coaching staff is trying to make us aware that we should be doing a better job of (protecting Luongo),"said defenceman Mattias Ohlund.

"He's one of the best goaltenders in the league and you have to protect the stars."

In a recent 13-game stretch, the Canucks went 10-1-2, despite being outshot every game, so it's no secret that the best way to beat them is to make life tough for Luongo.

As a result, their MVP has taken a lot of bumps lately, some through the course of normal play, others deliberate attempts to rattle him.

"We want our players to go hard to the net, it's part of the game," said Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault.

"But there might be a difference when it's a fourth liner going in there and crashing the net - that's something that we as a team have to deal with and Roberto has to deal with.

"The difference between Roberto and other goaltenders in the league is he doesn't embellish it, he doesn't want to embarrass the referees, he's pretty classy that way. Maybe that's why some other teams get more calls in that area than we do, Roberto is being honest."

Not that he wants to see Luongo flop around at the first sign of contact.

"I think the league is trying to crack down on that," said Vigneault.

"I watch soccer and I hate it when the guys dive. I don't like it in our sport, guys get touched and they flip flop all over the place. I don't think it's good for the game.

BLUE PAINT CHIPS

"I think Roberto is handling it the right way and it's up to the referees to protect the goaltenders."

Edmonton's Dwayne Roloson, one of the NHL's more animated goalies when it comes to contact in the crease, says it's getting nasty in the blue paint.

"Look at the playoffs last year," he said of the traffic. "It's not as bad as it was then, but it's still pretty bad. The new rules make a big difference, our defencemen can't protect us.

"We're just trying to hold our ground and make saves, and a lot of times the guys are bumping into us.

"Maybe we should go back to steel posts (anchored) in the ice and see if guys want to drive to the net then."

LATE HITS ... Daniel and Henrik Sedin are simply never far apart. They were drafted second and third in the '99 draft. They signed identical contracts (three years, $10.25 million), and going into last night's games they had 47 and 46 points and identical plus-4 ratings. Their career totals: Daniel has 269, Henrik 267.


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