VANCOUVER (CP) - Veteran forward Trevor Linden doesn't have a problem with all the praise that has been heaped on goaltender Roberto Luongo this NHL season.
Linden just wants people to understand that as good as Luongo has been, Daniel and Henrik Sedin deserve equal billing for the Vancouver Canucks surprising success this year. "Roberto has been great," Linden said while he unlaced his skates after practice Monday. "Roberto hasn't scored a goal.
"Daniel and Henrik, offensively, have been the catalyst for our team. That's a real credit to them."
The red-haired Swedish twins are enjoying career years and look to be fulfilling the potential the Canucks saw when they selected them second and third overall in the 1999 draft.
Left-winger Daniel, the trigger man, has career-highs with 36 goals and 81 points in 77 games. He leads the Canucks with 16 power-play goals and needs just four assists in Vancouver's final four games to tie the 49 he recorded last year.
Centre Henrik, the setup man, has 68 assists in 78 games, breaking the Vancouver franchise record of 62 set by Andre Boudrias in 1974-75. His 78 points is also a career best.
When the season began there were doubts the Canucks would make the playoffs. Now Vancouver, which plays Los Angeles Tuesday night, is just two wins away from wrapping up first place in the Northwest Division.
The 26-year-old brothers have proven to be the answer to one of the most asked questions last fall. Who was going to supply offence after Vancouver lost Anson Carter to free agency and traded Todd Bertuzzi to Florida for Luongo?
Daniel said the twins aren't playing any different, they just have been given more of a chance to contribute.
"Getting the first power-play unit is big," he said. "We've been getting out there a lot and playing in key situations, like four-on-three in overtime and those kind of things.
"It makes your confidence go up."
In Vancouver's last eight games the twins combined for 27 points. Since January, Daniel has 17 goals and 34 points in 27 games. Henrik has 32 points.
"We did our best to prepare in the summer," said Henrik, nicknamed Hank by his teammates. "We worked hard and came into the season in better shape and with better confidence than last year."
The Sedin's game has always been puck movement. They skate effortlessly. Henrik can feather a seeing-eye-passes through traffic. Daniel is a genius at finding the open corner.
No one questioned their skill, but many wondered about their toughness. Critics called them the Sedin sisters.
Canuck defenceman Willie Mitchell said those days are gone.
"Early in their career the knock was they weren't strong along the boards," said Mitchell, who faced the twins when he played for Minnesota prior to signing as a free agent in Vancouver. "They now are exceptionally strong along the boards."
Daniel said the brothers have grown physically.
"I think we're stronger on our feet," he said. "I don't think we're running around and hitting guys more than we used to. It's just being able to play in tough areas."
Henrik said they've never been afraid to get their noses dirty to make the play.
"We don't get scared or afraid of battles or going into the hard areas to score goals," he said. "We've never really been threatened by those physical battles."
Linden has been impressed by the maturity the brothers have shown since breaking into the league as 20-year-olds.
"I always thought they were very unfairly criticized early on," said Linden. "They were very solid guys.
"The biggest credit to them is they don't get too high when things go well, they don't get too low when things were going well."
The Sedins can also make people around them better.
Carter had a career-high 33 goals playing with the twins last year. He's managed just 10 goals this season with Columbus and Carolina.
Taylor Pyatt has scored a career-high 21 goals this year mostly playing with the Sedins.
If there's one area the twins can still improve on his Henrik getting more goals.
"He has a pretty decent shot, actually," said Daniel. "He wants to pass it every time.
"Sometimes he has to take the opportunity to shoot."
Henrik doesn't care who puts the puck in the net.
"I don't see a difference between scoring or passing," he shrugged.
Even if that means his brother gets all the glory?
"That's fine," Henrik laughed. "It's been like that since day one."