While players who can play multiple positions on the forward lines can increase their value, players who can play forward and defense can be just as important.
With the NHL’s current 23-man roster limit, each squad has the luxury of carrying an extra forward and defenseman. The dilemma comes when deciding who gets that final roster spot. Some coaching staffs prefer the second extra forward while others go with the second extra blueliner. With a Brad Norton or Rob Davison type player, a coach can have both.
Norton and Davison are two players who’ve been playing both positions during the preseason. Norton has handled the role in the past, while Davison is doing this for the first time (but he did play forward in a game at Nashville last season). Defenders by trade, they’ve both displayed the ability to be hard-nosed wingers who can deliver big hits to opposing forwards and manage their roles defensively.
“I’ll play wherever they want me to play,” Davison said.
Make no mistake, seeing either on the forward lines won’t be a regular occurrence, but it’s an extremely enticing option to coaches.
There are difficulties in having players take on this role, the primary one being they’re not in their natural position.
Captain Patrick Marleau
is one of the best point-men in the NHL when he runs the power play, but he has to adjust to a different mindset if he finds himself as the last man defending the goalie.
“It’s a little different if you’re the last one back,” said Marleau. “Usually, you have someone with you, so you don’t think about it a lot.”
For Davison, he isn’t making too big of a deal out of his potential duel role.
“The first game, it took me a couple of shifts to get used to it,” said Davison who has been used mostly as a blueliner in practice.
He’s simply taking care of the basics.
“I know the wing is supposed to pull out and support the center and that wingers have to get the puck out when the D gives it to them,” said Davison.
When he’s up front, Davison will look to minimize his mistakes, be strong defensively and provide a little of what he does on the blueline.
“A physical presence,” he stated. “They’re not looking for me to score 20 goals. If so, I’d be playing with Joe (Thornton).”
Davison is enjoying playing up and back. He also sees it as yet another way to show value to the club.
“It’s always fun to try something new,” Davison said. “There’s a lot more skating on (the forward) end.”
For advice, Davison can always lean on his teammates.
“I ask Curtis Brown a lot,” Davison said. “I see what he has to say and learn from that. I’m trying to simplify things.”
Despite the changes, Davison doesn’t need to worry about forgetting his defensive roots.
“Mostly, we want him on defense,” Coach Ron Wilson said. “We need to make sure if he needs to play up front, he’s available.”
Per terms under the NHL’s substance abuse program, Sandis Ozolinsh will not be able to sign a contract or play in a game until Oct. 10. Until that time, he will continue to try and make the club based on his practice performance.
“Obviously, it would be easier if he could play a game,” Wilson said. “We scrimmage a lot in training camp, so he knows it’s important to bear down so we can see what he can do.”
Forwards Torrey Mitchell
, Devin Setoguchi and Lukas Kaspar continue to impress as they try to crack the Sharks roster.
“We’re still testing the young guys to get a read,” Wilson said. “Especially Mitchell, Setoguchi and Kaspar. And you can throw (Joe) Pavelski in that young group. We know what Joe, ‘Cheech’ (Jonathan Cheechoo) and Patty can do.”
The forwards aren’t the only ones battling it out.
“We have decisions to make (such as) the sixth defenseman,” he said.
Fans who see the 20 skaters in action in Saturday’s final preseason game should not assume that’s the 20 for opening night.
“It’s unfair to say the lineup Saturday night is the lineup for the season,” Wilson said. “We might be taking a last look at someone.”
BACK TO THE FARM
The Sharks sent G Taylor Dakers, D Derek Joslin, RW Nate Raduns, LW Dennis Packard and D Tom Walsh to Worcester of the American Hockey League.
The Sharks flew to Calgary following practice Monday in preparation for their final two road exhibition games.
San Jose will be in Calgary on Tuesday and the game can be heard on sjsharks.com starting at 6 p.m. The Sharks conclude the road trip in Vancouver on Wednesday, starting at 7 p.m. The game can be heard on 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com