Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Salo's playoffs take turn for better

Categories: San Jose Sharks, VAN vs. SJS, Vancouver Canucks

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Canucks defenceman Sami Salo stepped up in a big way Sunday, scoring twice and setting up another goal to lead his team to a 4-2 win at San Jose. Vancouver has a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven NHL Western Conference final. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press) Canucks defenceman Sami Salo stepped up in a big way Sunday, scoring twice and setting up another goal to lead his team to a 4-2 win at San Jose. Vancouver has a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven NHL Western Conference final. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

By Tim Wharnsby, CBC Sports

SAN JOSE -The Stanley Cup playoffs have been about comebacks the past two springs.

Teams have overcome whopping in-game deficits like the San Jose Sharks when they stormed back from 4-0 against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. There also have been push backs from teams like the Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings who all forced a seventh and deciding game after falling behind 3-0 in a series.

Veterans Sami Salo and Henrik Sedin have authored comebacks of a different kind for the Vancouver Canucks with their latest chapters in a 4-2 win over the Sharks on Sunday to take a comfortable 3-1 series lead.

With Christian Ehrhoff out of the lineup with a suspected shoulder injury, the Canucks needed the 36-year-old Salo to step up. He did by scoring twice in a franchise-record 16 seconds apart and he set up Ryan Kesler for Vancouver's first power-play goal moments earlier.

Salo also saw his ice time increase by more than six minutes to 23 minutes 33 seconds on Sunday.

The Finn, buoyed from his country's recent win at the world championship, has experienced an up-and-down playoffs. He missed four games with an undisclosed injury and was hardly at his best. But when Alex Edler began to struggle, the Canucks coaching staff put him alongside Salo and not only has Edler been better, but so has Salo.

"The coaching staff asked for everybody, anybody who has come into the lineup, guys that haven't played as much that when you get a chance to play more you step up to the occasion," Salo said. "Nothing new. I played more minutes in previous years.

"It hasn't been that difficult. I can play with pretty much anybody on the team, cope with any partner you're playing with."

Long journey

Salo missed the first 4 ½ months of the regular season. He ruptured his Achilles tendon while he participated in a game of floor ball back home in Finland last summer. It wasn't easy to get his aging body back in game shape after the mishap.

"For sure, it's been a long journey this year, having a tough off-season," Salo said. "But we worked really hard to get to this point. Now it's really exciting. First time in my long career that I have a chance to play in the Western Conference finals. Playing against a great team, couldn't be any better."
 
And now after 12 seasons, 692 regular-season games and 87 more in the playoffs, the oft-injured Salo is one victory away from advancing to his first Stanley Cup final.

"It's really exciting," he said. "All the years that I've been here, we've had great teams. Just seems this year that the team is really united together. Everybody is pulling together as a team."

Salo moved from the Ottawa Senators to Vancouver eight seasons ago. The Sedins already were there for two when they became teammates with Salo. Like Salo, Henrik has come on this series after a forgettable second-round against the tight-checking Nashville Predators.

He set a franchise playoff record with four assists in a game on Sunday. He now has checked in for a club post-season record of nine assists in this series to boost his playoff totals to two goals and 19 points to lead the Stanley Cup playoff scoring race.

Daniel Sedin was no slouch either with a three-assist game on Sunday.

"Well, it's fun for sure," Henrik said. "I think we're both believers in if you work hard, you do the right thing, it's going to turn around. Playoffs is tough in a way that if things aren't going well, you might have a break after one series. It might be summertime. That's the tough part.

"You got to hang in there and hope the other guys are playing great. They've been doing that. So that's what we need. We need different guys to step up each series. That's why we're here."