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Daniel Sedin nearing Canucks' career record for goals

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- Daniel Sedin's face was still a bit of a mess when he met media for the first time since a puck, batted off the hand of another player and into his face, sent several teeth flying Sunday.

It wasn't easy to smile through double-digit stitches in a swollen upper lip that made it hard to see Sedin's still-missing teeth, but that didn't stop the Vancouver Canucks' leading scorer from cracking a grin while discussing his chase of former teammate Markus Naslund for the franchise record with 346 goals.

Maybe it was a chance to finally beat twin brother Henrik Sedin to a team record that helped Daniel smile. More likely it was being linked again to Naslund, who was the captain when the Sedin twins broke into the NHL in 2000. He provided a friendly face, a familiar language and an example they have tried to follow on and off the ice ever since.

Daniel Sedin
Daniel Sedin
Left Wing - VAN
GOALS: 17 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 38
SOG: 142 | +/-: 10
"We've told Markus a bunch of times how important he was to us, not only knowing you could talk to him about anything, but just watching him too," said Daniel, who trails Naslund by two goals going into Saturday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. "For young guys that is important, just to watch the older guys and see how they handle everyday situations; if they work out, how hard they go in practice. Those are the kind of things we looked for from Naslund and [Mattias] Ohlund and Trevor [Linden] too."

The Sedins have always been tied closely to Naslund, who is from the same hometown of Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, and was named captain during the Sedin's first training camp in Sweden.

"People forget that 11-12 years ago they had targets on them because they weren't what they should be, and Markus went through it, too, being maligned as a high draft pick who took a while to find his way," said Linden, the Canucks' current president, who played with all three and witnessed firsthand how the Sedins learned from Naslund. "I've always said their consistency is just based around their consistent attitude. They don't get too excited when things are good and they don't get too down when things are bad, and that has served them well, because it's hard to go up and down with this market."

After a slow start to their careers that had the Sedins longing for home, there have been far more ups than downs in Vancouver, including an Art Ross Trophy for each. By the time Naslund watched his No. 19 raised to the Rogers Arena rafters in 2010, there was little doubt the twins would take his place atop the franchise records.

Henrik was the first to overtake Naslund's 756 career points as a Canuck on Feb. 15, 2013, and Daniel passed Naslund for second place early in the 2013-14 season. Daniel also broke Naslund's franchise record for power-play goals (114) last season (he's at 120 now), and long ago eclipsed his mark of 49 game-winning goals (now at 76).

Naslund still has a big edge in hat tricks, with 10, but Daniel had his sixth earlier this season. It was part of a goal-scoring resurgence that few saw coming.

Always considered the finisher to brother Henrik's role as set-up man, Daniel's goal production has slipped since his 30-goal season in 2011-12. Daniel averaged more than 32 goals during a six-year stretch to that point, including a career-high 41 while winning the Art Ross Trophy in 2010-11, but he averaged 16 goals during the past three seasons.

While Naslund's record was never in doubt, the recent pace had some wondering if it might have to wait until next season. But with Daniel already scoring a team-leading 17 goals, few would be surprised if he set the record in the final three games of the current homestand.

For Daniel, his renewed goal-scoring pace comes from having Jannik Hansen as the third member of their line this season.

"For me and Hank, it's all about who we play with," Daniel said. "When we played with [Radim Vrbata] last year, he is a great shooter, he is a goal-scorer, you are going to feed him the puck. For us to be successful you have to realize what kind of role you have on the line. Playing with Jannik this year I have become more of a shooter, and that is why our line has been successful; you realize what kind of role you have."

It's part of a remarkable resurgence from the Sedins this season, one made all the more unlikely with a diminished supporting cast that has made it easier for opponents to focus almost exclusively on shutting them down with their best defensive players.

Despite that, and despite turning 35 in September, Daniel is in the top-10 in NHL scoring with 38 points and on Wednesday was named to the All-Star Game. Henrik, whose numbers have slipped only slightly while playing through an injury that forced him to miss two games and stand on the bench between shifts in others, has 34 points.

More important, according to teammates, they continue to follow the example set by Naslund for young players on a team that has two 19-year-olds and three rookies on the roster, with seven players making their NHL debut so far.

"Every day they come in with a smile on their face," goalie and fellow Swede Jacob Markstrom said. "Every time I see them on the ice it's a privilege, and to play with them is even better; not only on the ice but off the ice, too. My friends back home in Sweden, when I got traded here, they always ask about how Hank and Danny [are], and I told them they are probably the best professionals on and off the ice I have ever met. Danny doesn't have any teeth and he comes in, smiles and goes out and works hard in practice and laughs and jokes around. I would probably be done for the year."

Jared McCann, a 19-year-old rookie center, grew up a big Naslund fan. He gets to see the lessons he passed on first hand in the locker room with Daniel and Henrik.

"On the ice they are never frustrated," McCann said. "The way they treat everybody and the amount of respect they have around the League, it's something you want for yourself and so you try to portray what they do every single day."

It's exactly what they learned from Naslund 15 years ago and have tried to emulate ever since, even as they continue to overtake him in the franchise record book.

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