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Canucks' Vrbata credits Sedins for first All-Star Game

by Arpon Basu /

COLUMBUS -- When Radim Vrbata signed with the Vancouver Canucks as an unrestricted free agent last summer, the hope was that he would be the perfect fit to play with Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

It's safe to say Vrbata has been exactly that, so much so that he is attending the first All-Star weekend of his NHL career.

And the Sedins aren't.

"That's what I said when I was selected, that I just feel I'm the beneficiary of how that line works and how everything went for us as a line," Vrbata said during NHL Media Day presented by DraftKings on Friday. "They could as easily be here instead of me, and nobody would say a word. I don't think it's just my game, it's the whole thing. They deserve lots of credit."

That may be true, but Vrbata's addition in Vancouver has put an end to what was a bit of a revolving door on the right side of the Sedin twins during the previous two seasons. Though the position was filled most often by Alexandre Burrows, a long list of players took turns in that spot, including Jannik Hansen, Ryan Kesler, Zack Kassian, Nicklas Jensen and Chris Higgins.

Those days are now over with Vrbata firmly entrenched there and leading the Canucks with 18 goals, or as many as Daniel and Henrik Sedin combined. Vrbata is right on pace to match his career-high 35 goals, which he had in 2011-12 with the Arizona Coyotes.

Though Vrbata credits the Sedins with his on-ice success, he also says they played a big role in helping him make a smooth transition to the Canucks after six seasons with the Coyotes.

"Before I went there, I heard they were great guys. I think they're even better than what I heard," he said. "They're unbelievable people. Coming to a new team, you don't know how it's going to go, but they've been helpful since Day 1, since I signed. Even in the summer, they reached out to me and we kept in contact."

The chemistry the Sedin twins have can be difficult for their linemate because he needs to strike a balance between helping them out and staying out of their way to allow them make the unique plays only they can make.

"Chemistry is a weird thing; it's either there or not," Vrbata said. "Sometimes you have to let them be and do their thing on the ice, kind of get lost to get open somewhere. They are that good that they will find you and you will have a scoring chance. Sometimes you need to go in and help out on the cycle or something like that. It's about reads, and they're so good at reading what's happening out there, if you're smart enough you will create an advantage for yourself."

Vrbata has also enjoyed his front-row seat to watch the Sedins play their two-man game, and he is convinced there is something to the theory that the identical twins have a mental link that goes beyond simple chemistry on the ice.

"There's something beyond that," he said. "When you play with somebody and you build chemistry with them, you usually play with them for three or four years, maybe five. For them it's unique in the way they've been together their whole lives and they've played together their whole lives. Some of those plays they can make, it has to be a sixth sense. Even me playing with them for half a season now, there are certain situations you see on the ice where you wouldn't even think that it would be possible to make, and they just make it happen. So there has to be something bigger than just regular chemistry."

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