With the San Jose Sharks looking for goals after two periods against the Vancouver Canucks last night, head coach Todd McLellan decided that he’d seen enough from his lines as they were. He shook up lines two through four, digging for combinations that would click and provide offense.
The top unit of Joe Thornton, Tommy Wingels and Tomas Hertl was left intact, but the rest of the groupings saw various looks throughout the second and third frame.
It was evident that the combination of Joe Pavelski, Martin Havlat and Matt Nieto wasn’t going to work early on. Havlat in particular has struggled mightily since returning seven games ago. He has two points on the season, with both of them coming on November 5 against the Buffalo Sabres.
Nieto appears to be unable to find his early-season form. All in all, Havlat and Nieto seemed to be weighing Pavelski down a bit so McLellan gave the combinations a good shake.
Pavelski landed on a line with Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture, and the trio clicked immediately. The Sharks would eventually go on to out-shoot the Canucks despite trailing in that department after two periods, and would eventually come away with a dirty 2-1 overtime victory.
The line juggling is occurring thanks in large part to Brent Burns still missing from the roster. There’s still no timetable for his return, and the Sharks have to deal with a big hole in the lineup until the defenseman-turned-forward can reclaim his spot on the top line. In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see if McLellan continues to load up on a line with Marleau, Couture and Pavelski.
Pavelski in particular has seen a lot of success while playing on the “third unit,” but without solid line mates his talent seems wasted in that spot. This particular look gives McLellan a more traditional setup, with two scoring lines and two energy/prevention combinations.
John McCarthy and James Shepard were leaned on more heavily in Vancouver than usual, but McLellan seemed to appreciate the zeal and zip that they brought to the ice on their regular shifts.
If San Jose comes out flat against the Oilers, it wouldn’t be shocking to see McLellan go back to the dart board while looking for something to click. These lines could very well be in place to start against Edmonton though, and the Sharks will be looking for a quick start out of the group as a whole.
They’ve had no problems taking early leads lately. Keeping them, on the other hand, has been a bit of a problem.