Vancouver, BC – If the Vancouver Canucks had their way, Daniel Sedin would be in the lineup and using the final handful of games in the regular season to gear up for what they hope will be a long playoff run.
As it stands right now, the Canucks are just hoping the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner will be healthy enough to suit up when the games really matter come April 11.
Sedin, who suffered a concussion after being felled by a nasty elbow to the head from Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith in a game on March 21 that earned the latter a five-game suspension, is listed as out indefinitely and there is no timeline for his return.
But if there's a silver lining coming out of the Sedin injury, it's that the Canucks have used his absence as a rallying cry to pull themselves out of the funk they've been in for the better part of the last month since the trade deadline.
Since losing Sedin to a concussion, Vancouver has gone 3-0 entering play on Wednesday, knocking off teams that are essentially in playoff mode in the Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings. Their current three- game win streak marks the first time they've strung together consecutive victories since Feb. 23 and 24 when they beat the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils in successive road outings.
Vancouver hasn't been blowing out their opponents during the win streak - they've outscored the opposition by a just a modest 6-3 count in the last three games - and there's no doubt they will inevitably miss the offense Sedin brings to the table if he is out for an extended period of time.
What they have discovered in the meantime, however, is how to win games at the defensive end of the ice - something that was a key part of their identity last season when they finished with the fewest goals against in the NHL.
Their physical play also has ramped up since the injury to Sedin. Including the game against the Blackhawks in which Sedin suffered the injury, Vancouver has averaged just shy of 32 hits per game. Their season average is just over 23 hits per game.
Team toughness, or lack thereof, had been one of the biggest knocks on the Canucks dating back to last year's Stanley Cup Finals and was a catalyst for Vancouver's decision to ship out offensively gifted forward Cody Hodgson at the trade deadline in exchange for some added grit in the form of Zack Kassian.
It's difficult to envision the Canucks being able to make an extended playoff run without the services of their top sniper, but Vancouver's recent run certainly has provided a confidence boost for the club.
If Sedin recovers fully for the start of the postseason, and at this point there's been no suggestion that his playoff status is in any serious jeopardy, although the Canucks organization hasn't exactly been forthcoming with details, Vancouver might just look back at this being the turning point of their season just at a time they needed it the most.
Short-term pain could end up becoming long-term gain. The Canucks have every reason to be optimistic that will be the case.