Couture: 'It's another opportunity for other guys to step up'
Joe Pavelski will step up and join the top line with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
LOS ANGELES – Now down three forwards in Raffi Torres, Adam Burish and Marty Havlat, the Sharks will be forced to present a new look to their lines for Thursday night’s crucial Game 2 at Staples Center.
Joe Pavelski, whose transition to third line center helped to kick start the Sharks’ offense in late March, will return to play wing with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau on the top line in Torres’ place. The Joe Thornton-Brent Burns-TJ Galiardi trio is untouched, while Scott Gomez will center the third line between Tommy Wingels and James Sheppard.
That leaves Tim Kennedy, Bracken Kearns and Andrew Desjardins on the fourth line.
Pavelski, tied with Couture for the team lead in scoring with eight points, will almost certainly have to have an impact in order for the Sharks to return home with a series split after dropping Game 1. The Sharks know they’ll have to get in front of the net and find loose pucks around goalie Jonathan Quick, and Pavelski may be their best player in scoring those types of dirty goals.
“Some of the other players we put up there aren’t as natural in and around the net area. Couture and Marleau can have the puck and make some nice plays, and Pav can finish,” Todd McLellan said.
“It was a nice stretch playing center, but to be back up with those guys, it’s exciting,” Pavelski said.
Typically, Pavelski has played on Thornton’s wing rather than Couture’s.
“Jumbo obviously demands the puck and gets it, and Cooch is everywhere, creating turnovers and has the puck all the time. You like playing with both of them, and the opportunity is going to be good,” Pavelski said.
Todd McLellan said: “We like Pav there, and think he’s a responsible two-way guy, and has the ability to help out in the faceoff circle against a [Anze] Kopitar or a [Mike] Richards.”
Gomez also gets a promotion, and will likely see more even-strength minutes.
“He’s doing a lot of the right things right now for our team, and he deserves to be promoted into that spot,” McLellan said. “You look at his linemates (Wingels and Sheppard), you have a left and a right-handed shot and they both have a little bit of size and puck protection skills. Maybe it will compliment what Gomer has.”
Finally, Kennedy and Kearns should be familiar linemates. Kennedy said they spent most of the first half of the season together playing in AHL Worcester, with John McCarthy on the other wing.
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Torres’ status for the series is uncertain, as the league has yet to hand down its ruling following his hit of Jarret Stoll in the second period. Stoll, though, won’t play in Game 2, and could miss a week or more. Brad Richardson will replace him as the Kings’ third line center.
[RELATED: Richardson replacing Stoll for Kings]
It’s a notable loss for Los Angeles. Stoll was second among Kings forwards in penalty kill time with an average of one minute and 44 seconds shorthanded per game in the postseason. He’s also one of their top faceoff men, winning an impressive 56.0 percent of draws during the regular season.
Gomez said: “I don’t think people realize how important faceoffs are in the playoffs. If Stoll doesn’t play, he’s one of the best in the league. He’s a pain in the ass to go against. But, they’re well coached over there. They’ll be in the same situation as us (missing a player).”
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How will the Sharks cope with the lack of Torres’ physicality? Wingels, who leads the Sharks with 115 postseason hits, doesn’t think the Sharks should try and do anything differently.
“The team as a whole, we can’t get too caught up in compensating for losing Raffi,” he said. “As a team, we do need to finish that extra hit, but we can’t let it take away from other parts of our game.
“There are guys who can be more physical, but if that takes them away from scoring goals or making more plays, we don’t want that. We’ll find a way to stay physical within this group, and we’ll be alright.”
The Sharks would like to maintain their strong defensive play, a season-long staple to their game.
“The focus has to be finding ways to put pucks past Quick. But, if all your time and energy and resources go to that, and you loosen up at the other end, it just makes that first job that much tougher,” McLellan said. “There’s a balance that has to exist between both.”