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Alexander Edler's goal was to make farm team, now playing in NHL playoffs

At the start of the season the Swedish defenceman's goal was to earn a job with the the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League. Now the 21-year-old from Ostersund is taking a regular shift for the Vancouver Canucks in the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.

Not bad for someone who just last spring was playing for the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Hockey League playoffs.

"I didn't have any expectations of playing in the NHL coming into this season," the soft spoken Edler said prior to the Canucks playing the Anaheim Ducks in Sunday's Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinal. "My first goal was taking a spot with the Moose.

"I got called up and played pretty good. Here I am in the playoffs. It's great."

Injuries to veterans Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo forced the Canucks to dip into their farm team talent. So far, coach Alain Vigneault has been impressed with Edler and Jannik Hansen, another rookie pressed into serve because of an injury to forward Matt Cooke.

"Sometimes players get opportunities," said Vigneault. "They are making the best of it.

"Their contributions are important to our team and our success. I think we needed that from those guys."

The six-foot-three, 220-pound Edler played 49 regular season games with the Moose this season, collecting 26 points and 28 penalty minutes. He also appeared in three playoff games.

During the season Edler played 22 games for the Canucks, where he had one goal and two assists. Veteran defenceman Mattias Ohlund said Edler got better each time he played in Vancouver.

"Every time he comes up he's very calm," Ohlund said as he taped one of his sticks for Sunday's game. "Most times he's been up for us he continues to make strides and get better."

It's one thing to be called up for a game in February. There's a lot more pressure when you are thrown into the second round of the playoffs.

"Of course it's different than the regular season," Edler said. "I was probably more excited than nervous."

In his first two games against the Ducks Edler averaged just over 14 minutes of ice time. He wasn't spectacular but also didn't look out of place.

Edler was just 16 when he played his first professional hockey in Sweden.

The Canucks took Edler 91st overall in the 2004 draft after he had flown under the radar of most teams. The only reason Canucks scout Thomas Gradin saw Edler play was because of a telephone call from a friend who suggested he should come and watch the youngster in action.

Edler spent the 2005-06 season with the Rockets. He had 13 goals and 40 assists in 62 regular season games, then added three goals and eight points in 12 playoff games.

Big and offensively talented, one of the knocks against Edler was he didn't play physical enough. He thinks his year in the WHL changed that.

"The transition is pretty big," said Edler. "It took a while before I came into the style of hockey here. It's more intense, faster, more physical."

Besides the hockey, Edler, who was 19 at the time, also had to adapt to a new lifestyle in a different country.

"It was hard in the beginning," he said. "I was homesick and stuff. After a while it got better.

"I got into everything, the food and everything around, not just the hockey. This year I feel much better. I feel more at home."



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