Wingels, linemates embrace their role

April 13, 2012, 9:39 pm
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PROGRAMMING NOTE: Saturday on Comcast SportsNet California, it's Sharks Pregame Live at 4:00, Sharks vs. Blues Game 2 at 4:30, and Sharks Postgame Live following the final buzzer.

ST. LOUIS On a roster with so many established, proven, and household NHL names, Tommy Wingels is just fine being the guy no ones heard of.

In fact, it could help his cause, as the rookie progresses through his first postseason in the pros.

I dont mind having that role at all, Wingels said. When teams and players dont have as good a scouting report on you, maybe theyre not ready for what you bring. I think you can use that to your advantage, definitely.

If Wingels, along with linemates Andrew Desjardins and Daniel Winnik keep scoring timely and vital goals like they did in Game 1, it wont be long before opposing teams have a better understanding of what they bring to the table. They were on the ice for the third period equalizer with just over five minutes left, when Desjardins scored at 14:44 to make it a 2-2 game.

Wingels made it happen, when he drove around defenseman Roman Polak before feeding Desjardins in the slot. If that play doesnt transpire, theres a very strong likelihood the Sharks find themselves down a game in their series with the Blues rather than ahead one game to none with Game 2 set for Saturday night.

The Evanston, Illinois native sounded pretty content getting his name on the scoresheet in his first-ever playoff game. Todd McLellan sensed Wingels line was skating well late in the game, and by the time it ended in the fifth period, the trio that started as the fourth line was getting as much ice time as anyone.

It was cool. You want to help any way you can, and when you help contribute a goal, it feels great, Wingels said.

As a group we felt comfortable out there, and the coaching staff feels the same way. Whether its overtime, we want to be out there. Every player wants to be out there, and be the line that can score that goal. We were happy that we were given a chance.

It wasnt much of a surprise that McLellan started rolling the Wingels-Desjardins-Winnik line more than the Dominic Moore-Torrey Mitchell-TJ Galiardi trio late in the game. The head coach has commented in recent weeks, since he essentially decided which 12 forwards are going to play, that whoever he believes is skating better at the time is who hes going to put on the ice.

That rivalry among teammates is advantageous, according to Desjardins, who played in just his fourth career playoff game himself but who now has two career goals.

Its always huge to have a little bit of internal competition within a team, he said. You just go with it. If things are going your way and youre playing well, you just go with the flow and keep doing the things that are making you successful. Thats pretty much the bottom line.

Having a reliable four lines is a luxury McLellan will need to persist. After all, the Blues were doing the same thing.

The depth and the minutes that are spread out allow some bigger players to rest and give you more later in the game, he said. Thats one of the things we feel fortunate about. The last two to three weeks weve been able to do that. We trust that third and fourth group, and theyve done a good job at creating that trust.

Although Wingels and Desjardins are still playoff newcomers, theres plenty of experience in the Sharks dressing room to help them along should there be any bumps in the road.

Thats a luxury that the younger and more inexperienced Blues cant match.

I cant put into the words the leadership here, Wingels said. As a young guy you just need to pretty much put your head down and follow. We have guys who have won Cups before and been in these situations, and as a young guy just sort of do what I can to follow their lead.

He could end up doing much more than that.

Odds and ends: Most of the Sharks opted not to bus to a suburban rink to practice, instead opting for a team meeting at the Scottrade Center. A concert made ice at the arena unavailable. According to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Blues will stick with Jaroslav Halak in net but could make some other lineup changes. Right wing Ryan Reaves played just 8:01 on Thursday, a game-low.