Struggling Sharks bump Pavelski down to third line

After three straight regulation losses, it seems like the San Jose Sharks might be facing another crisis of confidence (though not quite at the level of this offseason’s borderline meltdown). Perhaps a notable lineup change might help the Sharks find some stability?

CSNBayArea.com reports that the Sharks will bump Joe Pavelski down to the third line against the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday. Here’s how San Jose’s top nine forwards are expected to look:

Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – James Sheppard

Matt Nieto – Joe Thornton – Tomas Hertl

Tommy Wingels – Pavelski – Chris Tierney

If one thing stands out about this alteration, it’s that it gives the Sharks better depth. Wingels has been drawing strong reviews as a depth winger even before his two-goal performance against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014-15 opener, but skating with a center like Pavelski could make him that much more effective.

Sharks head coach Todd McLellan explained that this move is more about improving defense than creating more scoring chances.

“We’re kind of going in waves where we have a line or two that’s responsible and then one that falls off, and it varies,” McLellan said to CSNBayArea.com. “It’s not just the top lines or the third or fourth lines. It varies. We’re trying to find some balance defensively.

“I think offensively we’ve been fine. I’m not too concerned about creating chances or anything like that. It’s the play in our zone, and it comes from a variety of different areas. It’s not just one thing.”

Of course, the biggest defensive improvements would theoretically come from improving the defense, yet the Sharks don’t enjoy the same array of options among their blueline corps.

If nothing else, Saturday’s game against Buffalo could provide a confidence boost. The first real test for such a tweak – assuming this even sticks – would come against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.

(H/T to Rotoworld.)

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