LOS ANGELES -- It appears first-line wing will be Joe Pavelski's assigned role for the San Jose Sharks in Game 3 of their Western Conference First Round series.
Well, that's where he'll start, anyway.
Pavelski began Game 2 on San Jose's top line against the Los Angeles Kings but moved to center of the third unit after his first shift of the second period with the Sharks down 2-0. The fourth line scored almost immediately after the change, and the Sharks swallowed the Kings with seven straight goals and wave after wave of offensive pressure to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan has moved Pavelski back and forth between the roles this season, and based on the morning skate Pavelski will start with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns on Thursday at Staples Center (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, CSN-CA, PRIME).
"He's there now, so we'll use him there," McLellan said. "We have our four lines, and we'll play them. They get last change at home. They get an opportunity to play their guys any way they want to play them. Our four lines have proven to be productive to this point. They've all played their roles well. They need to continue to do that regardless of who they're on the ice against."
Pavelski's versatility gives McLellan the ability to mix and match when he wants. He scored 41 goals this season playing mostly on the top line after rookie Tomas Hertl was injured. Given the Kings' depth at center, the Sharks coach has still deployed Pavelski for key defensive-zone faceoffs and made the change a more permanent one in Game 2 looking for a spark.
The return of Hertl and Raffi Torres gave McLellan more options, but Kings coach Darryl Sutter said there was a lot of focus before the series from his team on Pavelski.
"To be honest, our biggest thing was whether Little Joe and Big Joe would play together," Sutter said of Pavelski and Thornton. "They've got a lot of ammo over there and if they move it around it puts a little bit more pressure on other guys."
Everything McLellan has tried to this point has worked. Each of San Jose's 12 forwards has at least two points in the series, and 10 players have scored at least one goal. The Sharks have handled McLellan's in-game changes seamlessly.
"We've done that all year. Guys have moved back and forth," Sharks center Logan Couture said. "A lot of our players are confident playing with each other because they have. We've had an injury-filled year, so a lot of our guys have played with different players. I think that helps to know that everyone can play with everyone."
Here are the projected lineups:
Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto
Tomas Hertl - James Sheppard - Tommy Wingels
Raffi Torres - Andrew Desjardins - Mike Brown
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers
Brad Stuart - Justin Braun
Scott Hannan - Dan Boyle
Scratched: Matt Irwin, Matt Tennyson, Marty Havlat, Bracken Kearns, Tyler Kennedy
Injured: Adam Burish (hand)
Marian Gaborik – Anze Kopitar –Justin Williams
Tyler Toffoli – Mike Richards – Jeff Carter
Dwight King – Jarret Stoll – Dustin Brown
Kyle Clifford – Colin Fraser – Trevor Lewis
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr – Slava Voynov
Willie Mitchell – Alec Martinez
Scratched: Jordan Nolan, Tanner Pearson, Matt Greene