NASHVILLE – One reason Nashville Predators center Paul Gaustad keeps getting better in the faceoff circle is that he is the only center in the NHL who regularly takes draws as a lefty and a righty.
Gaustad basically is an ambidextrous faceoff guy.
If the left-shot center is taking a draw against a righty or on the right side of the ice, he often flips his stick around and takes the faceoff as if he is a right-shot center.
The 33-year-old, 11-year veteran began this practice four years ago as “just another way to win draws. It seems to help in certain situations, so I use it as a tool.
“They talk about strong side and weak side, but if you want to be a good faceoff guy in the league, you can’t have a weak side. So I try to keep my percentage the same every single draw in every single dot on the rink.”
He has done a good job of it. Gaustad has a .568 career winning percentage and since 2005-06 has the third-highest faceoff winning percentage in the NHL among active players behind Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron. Not so coincidentally, Gaustad called Toews and Bergeron two of the toughest faceoff adversaries in the NHL, along with the Wild’s Mikko Koivu (.543 career faceoff winning percentage).
Koivu said the first time he saw Gaustad turn his stick around, he thought: “This is very different. But it creates the angle a little better for you and basically is like having a strongside faceoff, like he’s righthanded. Personally, I haven’t tried it, but he makes you adjust.”
Zach Parise said Dominic Moore used to do the same thing but doesn’t anymore. Gaustad started helping a Predators teammate, right-shot Calle Jarnkrok, take draws as if he’s a lefty last season.
“I’m still trying to get better,” Jarnkrok said. “It’s hard at the beginning, but it’s getting easier and easier.”
Gaustad hasn’t turned his stick around as much this season because now the defending player must put his stick down on the ice first. It used to be the visiting player put his stick down first.
“I take the majority of my draws in the D-zone, so I have to set first and now I can’t react to what the other center is going to do,” Gaustad said.
Picking his brain
In Boston last month, NHL Players’ Association divisional representative Joe Reekie asked Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk to join the NHL and NHLPA group that’s going to look at reducing the size of goalie equipment next season. Dubnyk accepted.
Dubnyk said Cory Schneider is on the group and such other goalies as Braden Holtby and maybe Ryan Miller will join.
“I think it’s important to get different guys that all wear their equipment different ways so you have all these different kind of inputs,” Dubnyk said. “You just don’t want one guy that plays a hybrid style that wears small gear or one guy that’s big and blocks. You need a mix of everybody that wears their gear different ways so we can all talk about it and figure out what’s going to work.”
• The NHL has selected the officials for the Wild-Blackhawks Feb. 21 outdoor game at TCF Bank Stadium. Three Minnesota residents will call the game: referee Chris Lee and linesmen Brian Mach (the only Minnesotan who is a full-time NHL official) and Ryan Galloway, as well as referee Steve Kozari.
• Other than emergency recalls, the holiday roster freeze went into effect at 11:59 p.m. No trades, reassignments or waivers can take place until 12:01 a.m. Dec. 28.