Henrik still under the radar

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

MONTREAL - Roberto Luongo knows better than any goaltender in the NHL what it’s taken for Henrik Sedin to get to the top of the NHL scoring race.

Luongo, the Vancouver Canucks stopper, faces his teammate in practice almost every day and is uniquely positioned to assess his potential impact at the Olympics in a couple of weeks.

As they prepared for their game against the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night, Luongo was asked by a Swedish reporter if Sedin’s performance this season changes the favourites for the Olympic tournament.

“I don’t care,” said Luongo, with shrug and a chuckle. “I worry about Canada. We’ll see when we get there.”

Love is in shorter supply with each passing day, huh?

Sedin is poised to be a central figure at the Games. As the NHL’s leading scorer, playing in his own market, shouldering the leadership for an aging Swedish squad, he’ll be a key player to watch.

Not that it’s any different day-to-day in the NHL.

Sedin went into Tuesday night’s games with 78 points, two more than Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and seven more than third-placed Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Sedin has been a solid, better than a point-a-game player since the lockout (actually, 392 points in 382 games), but has kicked things up this season.

He didn’t even slow down that much when he lost his brother Daniel (the twins seem to share the same brain on the ice) to a broken foot for 18 games earlier this season.

In Daniel’s absence, Henrik had 10 goals and eight assists in 18 games, picking up the goal-scoring slack and revamping his career goals-to-assists ratio (two-thirds of his career points are assists).

Maybe it’s nothing more than a guy hitting his prime at 29.

“We haven’t changed anything. We’ve worked hard for a lot of years to get better and we told each other we were going to get better every year. I think it just comes with confidence and maturing,” said Henrik. “It’s taken a lot of hard work, but that’s why it feels good to be where we are.”

Both Luongo and Canucks coach Alain Vigneault have been around the twins for the last four years and have seen them grow as players, but nothing like the leap forward Henrik has taken this year.

“(Henrik’s) definitely taken it up a level from last year. I’m not surprised,” said Luongo. “I’m not surprised he’s the leading scorer in the NHL, but I’m definitely happy for him. He deserves it.”

When Vigneault arrived in Vancouver, the Sedins were the second-line support group to Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison.

“With more ice time every year, they’ve improved,” said Vigneault. “Every year they find a way to come to camp in better shape...and they are just really easy to coach.

"Whatever you ask, they are just like, “no problem, we’ll take care of it.’”

Winger Alex Burrows has been a perfect complement to the twins.

His off-ice controversies lately have detracted from the wonderful year he has been having with 25 goals and a plus-30 rating, second in the league. He is a clever player, knowing where to go to allow the Sedins to work their crushing cycle game.

Unfortunately, barring a quick change in citizenship, Henrik won’t have Burrows for the Games, but Henrik’s production without Daniel earlier this year shows his ability to adapt, another sign of maturity.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun, first of all. We’re going to try and enjoy it,” Henrik said of the Olympics in their backyard. “I still think we are going to be the underdogs in the tournament even though we won the last time. That’s going to fit us well. I think the Swedish team easily comes together quick and that’s going to help us for sure.

"It’s five or six teams that can win and we’re one of them. It’s going to be tough, but we’ve got a chance for sure.”


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