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Burrows given match to light fire under Sedins

Vancouver Canucks' Alex Burrows celebrates his goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period in Game 6 of their NHL Western Conference quarter-final hockey game in Chicago April 24, 2011. REUTERS/Frank Polich

FRANK POLICH

Not too long ago, Alex Burrows was in the midst of a deep slump and facing questions about a developing reputation as a postseason no-show.

Monday, Alex the Great skated with the Sedin twins at practice, and could be the tonic that ails Vancouver's best players.

The Sedins have gone three games, dating back to a first-round victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, without scoring, a step back for two Art Ross Trophy winners who were on the verge of shedding their reputations as playoff underachievers.

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Burrows, meanwhile, has been scorching since Game 6 of the Blackhawks series, when he was reunited with centre Ryan Kesler and winger Mason Raymond. He has been contagious for his new linemates, who have been more threatening offensively than before, yet head coach Alain Vigneault appears poised to risk that momentum in order to get his first line on track.

"A lot of it is on me and Hank," said winger Daniel Sedin, the NHL's leading scorer in 2010-11. "We're two-thirds of the line. We should be able to get guys going. So it's mostly on us. Now, getting a chance to play with Burr again, it should get us going."

Vigneault said not to read too much into his line combinations at practice, which had Mikael Samuelsson demoted from the first to the fourth unit, and Chris Higgins playing with Kesler and Raymond. The coach also had rookie Cody Hodgson on a regular line, while dropping winger Victor Oreskovich into the bin of spare parts, while bringing Alexander Edler back onto the top power-play unit in place of Samuelsson.

"Am I frustrated?" said Samuelsson, who is without a point in six games. "I think it should be pretty obvious if you watched practice."

Burrows has six points in his past four games, while Henrik has but one. Earlier this postseason, and for one of the few times in their 10-year careers, Daniel was demonstrably better than Henrik.

Daniel has five goals and 36 shots on goal in the playoffs, while the Canucks captain is searching for his first tally and is two points behind his brother.

Vigneault said that the twins have evolved, and no longer want a linemate who simply stands in front of the net and cleans up garbage. He said they want a triplet who "thinks like them" while also playing in the corners, and at the front of the net.

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But when it comes to Burrows as a linemate, the twins disagree on at least one element.

Daniel still believes that the Montreal native gets them playing with more pace, an observation that Vigneault made some two years ago when he first assembled the line. Henrik, on the other hand, said Burrows has adjusted to the twins' game as opposed to the brothers using their linemate's speed.

"If we're all on our game, we can be a step ahead of guys because we're going to chip pucks at the right time and we're going to make the right plays," Daniel said. "We're never going to outskate anyone in this league … so it's all about having good pace with the puck, quick passes, and then moving our feet. That is going to be key."

When Samuelsson is on their line, the twins are typically more deliberate and more likely to setup their half-court offence as opposed to fast-breaking. But over the past two seasons, the brothers have also shown a capacity to take advantage of Burrows's speed on their right flank, and threaten in transition.

Both twins say that a faster pace is possible against the defence-first Predators, so long as they don't get too fancy near the blueline and start going offside.

"Playing with Alex, he knows where we want to put the puck, and it's a simple game: get pucks deep and battle for them," Henrik said. "It's more straightforward."

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About the Author
B.C. sports correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Matthew spearheads the Globe's sports coverage in B.C., and spends most of his time with the NHL Canucks and CFL Lions. He has worked for four dailies and TSN since graduating from Carleton University's School of Journalism a decade ago, and has covered the Olympic Games, Super Bowls, Grey Cups, the Stanley Cup playoffs and the NBA Finals. More

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