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Canucks' twin terrors don't score like they used to but Flames still need to be wary of dynamic duo

by GEORGE JOHNSON @georgejohnsonCH /

Glen Gulutzan feels like a lucky guy who had the same orchestra seat at a wonderful show on a three-year run.

Mamma Mia, say, for 252 performances.

 "Honestly,'' marvels the Calgary Flames' boss, "on the bench there must've been 40 times where we either went 'Oh. My. God. Is this the NHL?'"

"But there was probably 20 times players themselves looked back at us coaches and went 'Are you kidding me? They can do that in the National Hockey League?'

"The back passes, through their legs, back and forth to each other. Sometimes it's like they're playing pee wee out there, right?

"They way they know where each other is, there were quite a few of those.

"With John (Tortorella) and Sully (Mike Sullivan) and I, then with Willie (Desjardins), Liddy (Doug Lidster) and Perry (Pearn), we're like: 'Holy … how do they do some of things they do?'

"Pretty special players."

No longer, at 36, vying for the Art Ross Trophy, the curious need to click to the second and third pages of scoring to locate Henrik and Daniel Sedin, respectively, these days.

Which doesn't in any way lessen the threat the Swedish twins present on any given shift Saturday, as the push for a ticket to the playoff dance continues in Vancouver for the Flames.

"They're always looking for each other,'' cautions goaltender Brian Elliott, "always finding those quiet areas on the ice.

"That's where we have to stay quiet ourselves. If you get racing around, that's what they want you do to."

As someone once on the fun side of the Sedins' mind-meld magic, what are the best tactics to limit their hocus-pocus?

"The worst thing (we) can do is let them gain the back of your net and play catch,'' cautioned Gulutzan. "You've got to cut off the bottom of the net for them. Otherwise they start moving you east-west, side-to-side, then it gets them a little space and with space they can make plays.

"The other thing, really, is you play them physical, you play them hard but they can play in the trenches as good as anybody.

"So basically, it's cutting off their use of the back of the net. And you have to play them fast. Get on them fast through the neutral zone and make them work a little harder to get pucks.

"Because if they come in with entry, with possession, they're hard to deal with."

As the Flames boarded a charter flight bound for the Evergreen Playground, they sat an uneasy point ahead of L.A. in the taffy-pull for the second and final wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Canucks a further four points back, partially obscured by shadow.

Not that Gulutzan is expecting anything gratis on Hockey Day In Canada. Quite the contrary. The seasonal series between the Pacific Division flatmates is, after all, tied 2-2.

"They have an identity and a vision of how they need to play to get in,'' he said of the Canucks. "They stay above you all the time. They don't turn the puck over. Do they generate a ton of chances? No. Do they give up chances? Yeah. But they're a team committed to playing the right way, giving themselves a chance to be in every game, every night with their goaltending.

"I think they're a highly-evolved character team. They don't score easy so they're all committed to playing the same way. They've got complete buy-in. Willie's done a good job of getting them all on board."

With 24 games remaining on the docket, this is when the screws tighten, mistakes are magnified and ratcheted up.

"You have to embrace every opportunity,'' declared Elliott. "You can't look at it as an obstacle. You have to look at it as a way to get those next two points.

"They're trying to catch up and we're trying to catch up on some other teams. These four-point games with everybody fighting for those last couple spots are big-time.

"Some of the best advice I've gotten was from Ron Low my first year pro. He was like 'We can sit up all night and worry together. But what is that going to do for you?'

"That kind of puts things into perspective.

"It's just about looking forward, to create and manage your own destiny."


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