For the San Jose Sharks, it’s possible that Manny Malhotra might be the most versatile player on a team loaded with versatile players. Some players can play a couple of positions and some are comfortable on different lines, but it seems that no matter what comes Malhotra’s way, he seems to always have the answer.
A player of that caliber can be a coach’s dream as not only is Malhotra capable of countless adjustments, he will do so at the drop of a hat.
“The poor guy doesn’t know what line or position he’ll have half the time,” joked McLellan.
There are players with the abilities to fly all across the boards on the depth chart, but there is sometimes an adjustment period. Not with Malhotra. He finds the benefits and says it’s always helpful when a coach asks for more out of you.
“I think the biggest part is confidence,” said Malhotra. “Once they show confidence in you, it helps elevate your game.”
The coach agreed.
“When Manny first came to our club, I think he was feeling his way through,” said Malhotra. “Now I think he is confident and that reflects in his play.”
Until just recently, Malhotra had been manning a spot on the second line with Joe Pavelski
and Ryane Clowe
and the transition was seamless.
“He fit right in,” said Clowe.
With that line came more ice time in the form of not only five-on-five minutes, but also on the power play. A former first round pick of the Rangers, Malhotra has some skill up his bag of tricks to use in such situations.
“When the coaches puts you on the power play it’s on us to prove them right and earn your ice,” said Malhotra.
It is his ability to play more than two positions that truly makes him stand out. Some forwards can play one spot and are limited there. Others can handle the middle or their natural wing. Malhotra has been spotted at all three positions during the campaign.
He says he does need to occasionally remind himself during games to stay at home, no matter where his home position is that game.
“I tend to drift a little,” said Malhotra about sometimes noting to himself he’s not playing center. “If I’m on the left side, I’ll tell my right wing to let me know if I’m drifting over.”
Up front Malhotra say the Sharks system of reading the play keeps players aware no matter which spot they start on.
“The first guy back is in,” said Malhotra. “There are different responsibilities. A lot of systems the center is down low (no matter what). Here it is read and react.”
Malhotra was brought to San Jose for his penalty killing, faceoffs and defensive zone coverage though and he has not disappointed.
“Obviously the D is a big part of the penalty kill and it’s what I’m used to,” said Malhotra.
“His biggest asset is taking faceoffs and winning,” said McLellan. “He’s a big man physically and he wins board battles down low.”
As for future games, Malhotra has no plans to ask McLellan let him play defense during a game.
“I did it in juniors a couple of times,” said Malhotra. “I got by. I don’t think there are any defensive shifts for me here.”
He’ll have to settle for playing three positions and doing what he does best.
“He came as advertised,” said McLellan.
McLellan did note there might be one factor to Malhotra’s game that might be more important than his versatility, penalty killing, faceoff ability or defense.
“He is a very good teammate,” said McLellan. “It is hard to see on the ice, but in the room and on the road, he is a very good teammate.”
McLellan let Dan Boyle
and Dany Heatley have a day away from the ice.
“Each got their day,” said McLellan. “Dany was sick so he had an extra day of rest. Dan plays 30 minutes a night.”
The snow on the mountain tops this morning around San Jose was a surprise for many of the new Sharks players.
“It was cold, but it was still nicer than home,” said Malhotra.
The Sharks will host Los Angeles Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. at HP Pavilion. Tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be available on CSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.