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Sedins still face pressure to produce offensively

Friday, 11.22.2013 / 9:45 AM
Kevin Woodley  - NHL.com Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- Their minutes are up, their roles have expanded and they are spending more time apart this season, but the pressure on Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin to generate offense hasn't changed.

The Vancouver Canucks' top-line twins may have added ice time, penalty-killing and shot-blocking responsibilities under first-year coach John Tortorella, but they are still expected to score regularly. With the Canucks mired in a goal drought that has led to a five-game losing streak (0-3-2), that means a renewed focus on the slumping Sedins.

"The pressure is always there," said Daniel, who hasn't scored in seven games. "It doesn't matter if you score 10 games in a row, you are going to have to score the next game too. That's my mindset. I go out there every game thinking that way, but when you lose like this it is tough for sure because one goal would go a long way for us."

Captain Henrik, who has a goal and an assist in the past six games after starting with at least a point in 16 of the first 17, doesn't believe that pressure to score has gone up with their minutes.

Along with Ryan Kesler, who spent a couple weeks on their wing, both Sedins are in the top-four in the NHL for average ice time among forwards. Henrik and Kesler are tied for the lead at 22:40, and Pittsburgh Penguins' star Sidney Crosby (22:32) is the only other forward ahead of Daniel's 22:16 average. That's three minutes above the Sedins' usual playing time under former coach Alain Vigneault, but one of the extra minutes has come shorthanded, a role the twins didn't play before.

The Sedins are also starting more shifts in their end under Tortorella this season. Around 61 percent of their shifts begin in the offensive zone now, a big drop from 79 percent two seasons ago.

Henrik thinks the pressure may have even eased because the extra minutes come with those increased defensive responsibilities.

"I think it's maybe less," Henrik said. "I mean in the past we played 17 or 18 minutes of purely where you need to score goals or where you are supposed to score goals. We know we have to score goals now too, and I think we should have a few more points than we have right now. But I have never felt this good about my game as a whole, where you play well in your own end, you are strong on pucks."

Still, questions about scoring increase as losses mount.

Henrik still has a respectable 22 points in 23 games, but has fallen off from the early pace that saw him post a 12-game point streak and record 20 points in his first 17 games. It wasn't quite the Art Ross Trophy pace of 2009-10, when he lead the NHL with 112 points, but was a little better than the past two seasons, when the franchise's all-time leading scorer fell slightly below a point per game.

Daniel has seven goals and 17 points in 23 games, well off the 104-point form that saw him win an Art Ross of his own in 2010-11. Much of that drop-off can be attributed to a power play that led the NHL that season at 24.3 percent, but currently ranks 29th at 11.3 percent.

"If our power play is better, we are a big part of it so we are going to have those extra points," said Henrik, who has factored into the scoring on all eight power-play goals Vancouver has scored this season. "Now our power play is struggling and we have to create more 5-on-5. That is the biggest difference from our best years."

Daniel and Henrik are also hearing more questions about playing time as their scoring slumps continue -- and whether the increased minutes are sustainable over a full season on the West Coast. Tortorella has offset the work with more days off between games, including two straight recently, and a promise to lead the League in rest.

"I feel as good now as I did in the first 15 games when things were going well," Daniel insisted. "People are just looking for answers."

For Tortorella, that includes splitting the Sedins more often. Daniel will start on a different line than older (by minutes) brother Henrik when the Canucks host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, a move that would have been shocking last season but isn't now.

"It worked last time, so I don't think it's a big deal," Henrik said of the separation from his twin. "We have talked about it and I don't know if it's good or bad but it's nothing we are opposed to. We have a lot of good players on this team and sometimes he has put us on different lines and then the next shift we are back together, so it's refreshing and you see different things."

All the talk about the Sedin twins blocking shots hasn't amounted to much. Henrik has blocked five, a pace similar to the 21 he blocked in 2010-11, and Daniel has blocked six so far. But Daniel does believe the added penalty-killing time -- the twins average a little less than one minute a game -- helps by ensuring they don't sit on the bench too long if the team gets into penalty trouble.

"If you are going to play these minutes you need to be out there consistently," Daniel said. "It can't be in spurts of 10 minutes you play a lot and then sit for 10 minutes. When you play like this and are out there all the time, it's no problem. He's going to play us and it's up to us to win games for the team, and right now we're not doing that."

That pressure may never change for the Sedins in Vancouver, and they're fine with it, especially while they are enjoying so many of the other things that have under Tortorella.

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