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Canucks players eager to learn from Tortorella

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- Henrik Sedin was one of four Vancouver Canucks players watching the introduction of coach John Tortorella from the back of a packed press room Tuesday.

The captain listened intently as Tortorella talked of pushing for more out of a veteran team that came within a win of the Stanley Cup in 2011 but has one win in two playoff appearances since, after being swept by the San Jose Sharks this postseason.

Sedin heard Tortorella talk of the need for better defending and more shot blocking throughout the lineup, and specifically adding a penalty-killing role for him and twin brother Daniel Sedin, the team's leading scorers.

Henrik Sedin said he liked what he heard from his new coach, and didn't seem worried about hearing it more pointedly -- and loudly -- inside a locker room that predecessor Alain Vigneault long ago turned over to the veterans.

"It doesn't matter if you have a coach that comes in and yells and screams; it has to make sense though, as a player you have to sit there and say, 'He's right,'" Henrik Sedin said. "I'm sure we're going to see different ways of dealing with stuff, but we're 33 years old, we're not 12, so I think we're able to handle a lot of things."

That includes time on the penalty kill, which Vigneault kept the twins off in order to keep them fresh for 5-on-5 and power-play situations, despite repeated pleas over the years from both Sedin twins to help out more shorthanded.

"Thirteen years we've been waiting," Henrik Sedin said with a chuckle. "It's something that I think is a big part of becoming a great player. You have to be on the ice for all situations. For us, we were counted upon to score goals, and if we didn't, then we were terrible. I think you grow as players when you play all situations."

As for occasional yelling, Henrik Sedin pointed out his NHL career started with noted screamer Marc Crawford behind the bench, and said most players want good communication and don't mind being accountable for their performance.

"He can come in and deal with things in the locker room the way he wants to, as long as you are on the same page and able to talk to him," Henrik Sedin said.

That is exactly what the Canucks should expect, said forward Christopher Higgins, who played 55 games under Tortorella with the New York Rangers in 2009-10.

"He has got a different approach than most coaches," said Higgins, who was traded by the Rangers that year but said his "poor year" had nothing to do with playing for Tortorella. "The thing I took away most about him is that he cares a lot. Some guys respond well, some guys don't to the way he approaches his team, but at the end of the day he is very fair and he is very honest."

He also asks a lot from his players, especially the top ones, Higgins added.

"He wants your compete level to be 100 percent at all times," he said. "He wants his best players to be his best players night after night and a lot of pressure falls on them. He wants all his players' compete to be as high as it can be."

If it isn't, continued Higgins, everyone on the team will hear about it.

"I don't think he has too many 1-on-1 meetings," he said. "If he is going to talk about a player, everyone in the room is going to be there to listen too."

It could make for an interesting dynamic, especially for Ryan Kesler, who played briefly for Tortorella when the latter was an assistant coach for the United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, winning a silver medal. Kesler bristled at times when Vigneault talked publicly about his performance on the ice, particularly when the former coach suggested the center use his linemates more, but Kesler welcomed Tortorella with open arms Tuesday.

"He's going to play the guys that are going, he is going to keep everybody accountable, and that's what I like," said Kesler, who has no problem blocking shots despite breaking a foot doing so this season. "It's frustrating for the other team when you have to shoot through six guys. If we get everybody playing like that we are going to frustrate teams. … We have to be a team that is hard to play against, that almost [ticks] teams off. I'm happy that's the way he wants to play."

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