It's a fine line

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:11 AM ET

When the Vancouver Canucks decided to make a line out of Anson Carter and the Sedin twins, people considered it a match made in heaven.

They didn't mean it in a good way.

The Sedins, long viewed as perimeter players who never reached their potential, and Carter, whose consistency problems and recent sub-par years had much of the hockey world writing him off? Talk about a perfect fit. They could all underachieve together.

But 56 games into the season it's become apparent that Vancouver management saw something nobody else did. The unlikely trio is one of the best lines in the game.

"We consciously wanted Anson here this year to give a right winger with some legitimacy to our Swedish twins,'' said Vancouver coach Marc Crawford, who's had them together since Day 1. "It's one thing we've kept consistent all year. We have tinkered with Morrison and Bertuzzi and Naslund throughout the year, but we have not tinkered with that line and consequently they've been able to gel a little bit. It's been a nice combination for us.''

Nice - as in a second line that's as good as many first lines in the NHL. The Sedins have 100 points between them (53 for Henrik, 47 for Daniel) and are days away from establishing career highs in goals, assists and points. Carter has 20 goals, eight away from a career best.

They were Vancouver's best line last night.

"It's been good,'' said Henrik, adding Carter's arrival changed their entire way of thinking. "You can see he's been on first lines before, he wants to produce every shift he's out there, he wants to make plays. That's a different mindset from years before where maybe we were more like decent two-way players. These days we want to produce every shift.''

RIDING SHOTGUN

And they often do. With Carter riding shotgun, the twins are living up to the potential that made them the second and third picks overall in 1999.

"The evolution of them this year has just been the chemistry they've been able to develop with Anson,'' said Crawford. "They need a thinking player with them, a thinking player that has some size and the ability to get into traffic areas. He's done a very good job in that domain.''

The Sedins have also brought the best out of Carter, who the Canucks signed for just $1 million.

"He's kind of been, not so much reborn, but maybe rejuvenated,'' said Crawford.

"We've all known he's been quite a capable player for a lot of years, but for a couple of years he wasn't playing at the level I think even he knows he can play at. It's been a nice combination.''

Carter and the Sedins? Who knew?

"It happened right away,'' Carter said of the chemistry. "We find each other on the ice so well and we support each other so well in tight situations that it gives us an opportunity to create time and space for each other. And the fact we really don't care who scores on the line helps; we're all more than willing to do the little things to get each other open.''

For Carter, this season is proof that he isn't done, and that when healthy and in the right circumstances, he can still be an impact player.

"I came off a tough year, being traded a couple of times,'' said the 31-year former Oiler, who played for three different teams last season (New York, Washington and Los Angeles).

''When I got to L.A., a place where I wanted to be at the time, I wasn't healthy, I tore my abdominal wall, sports hernia, two games in.''

HURT THE PERCEPTION

And struggled all year.

"The toughest thing was hearing people say, 'Carter's done.' How can you be done after one year? It hurt the perception of what I can do out there.''

Nobody's questioning it now.


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