VANCOUVER – Although Daniel Sedin was quiet after practising for the first time since suffering a concussion, his twin brother sounded confident Vancouver’s leading goal-scorer could be ready to play sooner than later.
“He’s 100 per cent now,”said Henrik Sedin on Monday as Vancouver prepared for its first-round Western Conference series against the eighth-seeded L.A. Kings.
Game 1 is Wednesday in Vancouver with Game 2 scheduled for Friday.
Daniel Sedin had been secretly skating on his own prior to Monday’s practice which was his first since Duncan Keith elbowed him in the head on March 21 during a 2-1 Canuck loss in Chicago.
Keith was suspended five games for the hit on the winger who led Vancouver with 30 goals with 10 coming on a power play that has slumped in the second half of the season.
When asked whether Daniel could withstand contact, Henrik replied:“It’s no different for him than for me taking a hit.”
Vancouver head coach Alain Vigneault, however, was more guarded.
“We’ll see how he’s doing (Tuesday) and we’ll take it from there,”Vigneault said.
“He’s had some real good days. Obviously this is a unique injury and we have to take it a day at a time. We feel real positive with how he looked today.”
The Canucks will need Daniel Sedin’s offence in their Western Conference series against the eighth-seeded Kings who were second in the NHL on defence and fourth against the power play.
Vancouver won the President’s Trophy for best record in the NHL with victories in eight of their last nine games—all without Daniel.
Fourth-liners like Max Lapierre and rookie Zack Kassian saw duty on the top line.
“We all know we like to play on the same line and we like to use each other,”Henrik said of his brother’s return.“I’m sure it’s going to be real good.
“He’s as good a passer as he is a goal scorer. He tends to often find the guy who’s in the best spot.”
That will help a punchless power play that was 2-for-36 until it scored twice in seven tries in a 3-0 regular season finale Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers.
“He’ll get us going for sure,”defenceman Kevin Bieksa said of Daniel’s power-play presence.
“He’s so underrated when he gets the puck on the breakout … the patience he has, that opens up everything.”
The second game in the best-of-seven series will be here Friday before the series shifts to Los Angeles for games Sunday and April 18. A fifth game, if necessary, will be here April 22.
Vancouver, which finished 16 points ahead of Los Angeles, had a slight 2-1-1 edge in the season series but were outscored 8-7 over the four games.
While the Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in a seven-game Stanley Cup final last season, the Kings are looking to advance past the first round for the first time in 11 years.
They have 15 returnees from the club that lost in the first round last spring to San Jose plus Jeff Carter and Mike Richards who helped lead the Philadelphia Flyers to the 2010 Cup final.
Their biggest weapon, however, is expected to be 26-year-old goalie Jonathan Quick a Vezina Trophy favourite from Milford, Conn.
He compiled a 2.07 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage while recording a league-leading 10 shutouts.
“They don’t give up much defensively and their goaltender is having a terrific season,”said Canuck goalie Roberto Luongo.
He has been a lightning rod for criticism in this Cup-mad city after his save percentage and goals-against average declined from last season.
“If we’re going to have some success, we’re going to have to be a patient team,”said Luongo, who made 38 saves to blank Los Angeles 1-0 here March 28.
“We have to wait for our opportunities and when we do get them we’ve got to capitalize.”
But beating Quick will be a challenge although the Canucks have become comfortable in close, low-scoring games.
“He had a huge year,”Luongo said of his Kings counterpart.“He’s a guy if he sees it, he’s going to stop it.”
Centre Anze Kopitar paced the Kings with 76 points and 25 goals. Captain Dustin Brown and Justin Williams each had 22 goals.
The Canucks are led by Henrik Sedin whose 67 assists were tops in the NHL for the third straight year. The abrasive Alex Burrows added 28 goals to the Vancouver attack.
“It might be a low-scoring series but we have to make it hard on their goalie and throw everything at the net,”said Ryan Kesler who believes the Canucks have evolved from the Game 7 loss to Boston.
“I don’t think we’re different,”he said.“I think we’re more experienced and able to deal better with situations.”
Notes: Vancouver defeated Los Angeles four games to two in 2010, the last time the two clubs met in the conference quarter-final … both clubs won in their opponent’s rink during the regular season … forward Sammy Pahlsson, picked up at the trade deadline from Columbus, is the only Canucks with a Stanley Cup ring … defenceman Drew Doughty leads active Kings with 11 post-season points.