PHILADELPHIA -- It was in the early days of training camp when head coach John Tortorella was just beginning to get familiar with his new team.
Asked about potential line combinations, Tortorella said he honestly had no idea, but was certain of one thing: The Sedins were going to play together.
Well, most of the time.
For the second time this season, Tortorella broke up the twins in the third period and for the second time it resulted in a come-from-behind-win.
On Tuesday night in Philadelphia, with his offence sputtering badly, Tortorella sent Henrik Sedin out to play with Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins.
“The fourth line,” Henrik said with a wry smile after Vancouver’s 3-2 win over the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.
All the Canuck captain did was set up Higgins’ tying goal and Kesler’s game-winner as the Canucks began a taxing seven-game road trip on a winning note.
The Sedin split will not be permanent. Henrik and Daniel will almost certainly start Thursday night’s game in Buffalo together again, but Tortorella acknowledged after the game that he is intrigued at the prospect of occasionally splitting them up.
“Sure it does,” he said. “I think it changes the mindset of the other coach, too, as far as who do you check? Listen, they play really well together. It’s very tough to split them up, but I think at times that is going to happen. I think as you go through the games those are calls we will make, but it’s awful tough to keep them away from one other because they play so very well together.”
The Sedin split worked early last week in Calgary, when Tortorella did much the same thing in the third period and the Canucks rallied to beat the Flames 5-4 in overtime with Daniel and Henrik each registering a third-period assist to help start the comeback.
Henrik has no problem at all playing without his brother riding shotgun on his wing.
“I think it’s a good thing for us to have going forward,” he said. “A lot of time on the road they (the opposition) get their match-up and when things aren’t going our way it’s a good thing to do.”
Kesler and Higgins, not surprisingly, are all for it. Henrik helped both players bump their early-season slumps.
Despite lots of shots and some good chances, Higgins hadn’t scored in the first six games. Kesler had just one goal and no assists.
“He is a pretty good player,” Higgins deadpanned when asked how Henrik helped his line. “You just have to get open and it’s right on your tape. I know that from seeing him the last couple of years. It’s a pleasure playing with him.
“You put a 100-point player on any line and I think it is going to give you some confidence, give you some offence and it worked for our line tonight.”
Henrik worked his magic behind the Flyer net to set up Higgins’ goal at 7:31 of the third. He slid a perfect pass out to Higgins, who had gained position in the low slot.
“If teams are going to leave him back there or they are going to chase him it doesn’t really matter because he is so good,” Higgins said. “You just have to get open and he feathers a saucer pass right in the slot for me.”
Henrik started the play on the game-winner with another pass to Higgins, whose shot was stopped by Flyer goalie Steve Mason. But Kesler banged home the rebound.
“You can say he’s a fun player to play with,” Kesler said of Henrik. “He’s always looking for you and your job is pretty easy when you play with him: It’s get open and get ready to shoot.”
Tortorella still has some concerns about a Canuck offence that has sputtered in recent games. It seems that almost no one is scoring when they aren’t playing with the twins, or at least one of them.
“We were getting better and better as the game went on,” Tortorella said. “I thought we stayed with it, which was the most important thing. We didn’t really open ourselves up and give up a bunch of chances. I thought we were just a little stale offensively. We had some zone time, but not too much to show as far as chances. So we tried to change some things and see if it could help us.”
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