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Faceoffs To Play A Big Role In San Jose-Vancouver Matchup

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
The important numbers in the Sharks-Canucks matchup Thursday at HP Pavilion will make up the final score. However, that could be determined by the numbers from the faceoff circle.


Vancouver leads the League in faceoff wins (55.4 percent) and the Sharks are second (53.5) and it’s not a surprising they lead their respective divisions. In fact, five of the six division leaders sit inside the top nine faceoff teams.

In three head-to-head contests this year, Vancouver has captured the faceoff battle twice and the Sharks once. San Jose will look to equal the score in the victory column, as well as the faceoff circle.

“It’s something we pride ourselves on and it will be competitive in the circle tonight,” Joe Pavelski said.

“It’s who starts with the puck and you’d rather start with the puck than chase it all night,” Joe Thornton said. “They’ve got some good faceoff men and so do we. It should be a good matchup.”

The faceoff circles are a battleground by their nature as it normally takes at least three players to win a draw. With the top two clubs going at it, there will be a little extra drama for the contestants.

“I think they will be pretty intense,” former Canuck Kyle Wellwood said. “It might go up a notch. Both teams really take pride in it and work on it more than other teams.”

“I’m excited for the challenge and I’m sure the rest of the centermen are, too,” Logan Couture said. “It’s a challenge and fun to compete against guys who are near the top in the League.”

With the talent on each bench, who has the puck more could easily decide who scores more.

“Puck possession is very important and they take a lot of pride in owning the faceoff circle and starting with it,” Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “You throw that in there with there skilled players, the more they have it on their stick, the more dangerous they are. We’d like to think we’re the same thing. When we’re playing well, we have the puck more and we start with it more often. I think it will be an important part of tonight’s outcome.”

THE LOGO IS FAMILIAR
Wellwood made his Sharks debut on Jan. 20 in Vancouver. Even though this is the second time he’ll play against the Canucks, he’s still excited about facing his former team.

“I’m looking forward to tonight as well,” Wellwood said. “Anytime you get one of the best teams in the League playing another one, it’s going to be fun. Having it be against your old teammates is better.”

IMPROVING THE PK
The Sharks penalty killing units have suffered a bit recently as San Jose has allowed seven power play goals in their last 10 contests.

“Yes, I am (concerned),” McLellan said. “The penalty kill has to sharpen up. We talked about faceoffs early in the interview here and a lot stems from that. We’re not winning as many as we like and we’re not executing when we do win. As a result, you give teams 2-3 opportunities to play in your zone and it ends up in your net.”

There’s no doubt the Sharks miss three key members of their PK unit due to injuries: defensemen Kent Huskins and Dan Boyle and center Scott Nichol.

“Huskins, Boyle and Scottie Nichol are all very good penalty killers and we haven’t had them during that time frame,” McLellan said.

NO CALIFORNIA VACATION HERE
When the Sharks promote players from their American Hockey League affiliate in Worcester, it’s for a purpose: to play. They’re not sitting in the press box watching the action. They’re key factors in a team’s drive to the postseason.

Center Andrew Desjardins, who was recalled on Monday, played slightly over five minutes against Nashville on Tuesday and won all three of his faceoffs.

“It’s exciting,” Desjardins said. “It helps the compete level down there (in Worcester). It keeps guys going when you know you’re one of the guys that might get that opportunity. You have to mentally prepare for playing because you probably know you’re jumping in the lineup.”

NEXT GAME
Tickets for tonight’s 7:30 San Jose-Vancouver game can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be on CSN California, 98.5/102.1 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.

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