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Canucks Edler lets his game do the talking for him

by Kevin Woodley
Speak softly and carry a big stick.

The first part comes naturally to Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler.

For his Vancouver teammates, the hardest part of setting an over-under for how many times the big Swedish blueliner would speak during his first All-Star Weekend was whether there should even be a number at all.  

"At the All-Star Game, probably zero," Daniel Sedin said. "Take the under."

Alexander Edler
Defense - VAN
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 27 | PTS: 34
SOG: 134 | +/-: 1
"Other than to the (Sedin) twins and Coho (Cody Hodgson), I say twice maybe all weekend," added goalie Roberto Luongo. "But he might talk to other Swedes."

According to fellow Canucks, Edler isn't quite as quiet in the locker room as he lets on when the microphones are around. While he'll never be confused with a rah-rah, spark-the-troops orator, a couple even went so far as to call him outspoken when he's off the ice and out of the spotlight.
But that doesn't mean he'll be making a lot of small talk in Ottawa -- even if Thursday's selection to Team Alfredsson surrounded him with two fellow Canucks and five other Swedes.

"There's a few Swedes there, so I think he might speak a little more," said Henrik Sedin, who before the weekend pegged the over-under on Edler speaking up at one. "As Swedes, when you are in a new environment for the first couple of times you are quiet, you try not to stand out, you try to be in the background. That's the way we are."

Tied for third among NHL defensemen with 34 points going into his first All Star Game -- he did play in the NHL Young Stars Game at the 2008 event -- Edler is on pace to smash his career high of 42 points, and it's getting harder for him to stay hidden.

That's where the big stick comes in handy. It speaks for him.

Edler's slapper registers triple digits on the radar gun, twice winning the Canucks' hardest-shot contest before finishing second to Sami Salo despite a 100 mile-an-hour blast last weekend. His point presence helped Vancouver's power play stay atop the NHL despite losing Christian Ehrhoff and his 50 points to free agency.


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Calls for Edler to use his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame more menacingly more often remain, in part because of some of the devastating open-ice hits he has delivered. His imposing presence while crushing a handful of Los Angeles Kings to open a Stanley Cup Playoff series two years ago was seen by many as a physical coming-out party, but Edler tries not to go too far out of his way looking for big hits.

"You have to use your body if you can and, if I have an opportunity to do it, I will," Edler said. "But I stay very calm even out on the ice. I think that's kind of my thing -- to stay focused and not run around. It's still important for me to stay calm."

Coming off back surgery last season, Edler models his game more after Detroit's silky smooth and efficient Nicklas Lidstrom rather than the more physical Niklas Kronwall. Edler may have the physical tools to be as devastating a hitter as the latter, but his demeanor better suits the former. Like his quiet personality off the ice, it's Edler's ability to stay cool under pressure and make subtle plays -- moving the puck out of the defensive zone or timely pinches to keep a cycling going at the other end -- that truly make him an All Star.

"When you have him around every day you don't really think about him as a top D in this League, but if you look at his stats, the way he plays, and really closely take a look at it, he's come a long way from a few years back," Henrik Sedin said.

Edler has come a long way, both literally and figuratively.

He was playing third-tier professional hockey near his hometown of Ostersund, located 300 miles northwest of Stockholm, when the Canucks selected him at No. 91 in the 2004 NHL Draft, trading up because they feared Detroit was going to select him soon and add him to a long list of unknown Red Wings' picks that blossom into NHL stars.

Edler now disputes the claim by Vancouver scout Thomas Gradin that he was playing in what was little more than a beer league at the time of the draft, but not how far he has come since then. After playing just one year of junior in the Modo system that produced the Sedins, Markus Naslund and Peter Forsberg, and one year of Canadian junior, he made his NHL debut in 2006-07.

"Sometimes I just stop and think like, 'How did I get here?'" Edler said. "From my hometown to my first year here, to now, everything went by really fast."

With that in mind, Edler will try and slow things down at this All-Star weekend -- just as he does on the ice -- and enjoy the experience. As for speaking, there is one person he hopes to talk to:  Alfredsson. With Alfredsson as the captain of Edler's team, the opportunities will be virtually unlimited this weekend.

"A guy like Alfie, you watched him growing up with the national team and stuff like that, so yeah, absolutely, that would be a nice thing to meet him," Edler said.

It's probably a good thing Alfredsson started the conversation by picking him. If nothing else, it bumped up the over-under on how many times Edler speaks.
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