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Game Preview/Lines #36: Gambrell Has Become Indispensable for Sharks

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LOS ANGELES, Calif. —

San Jose Sharks (15-16-4)

Los Angeles Kings (14-14-6)

Per Zach Dooley, add Kurtis MacDermid for Tobias Bjornfot. Otherwise, tonight’s Kings line-up should be the same as Wednesday’s:

Since it is a back-to-back, expect both Calvin Petersen and Jonathan Quick to get starts this weekend. It’s TBA who goes tonight.

Where to Watch

Puck drop is 7:00 PM PT at Staples Center. Watch it on NBC Sports California Plus, KCOP, or NHL.tv.

Morning Skate

Dylan Gambrell has become an indispensable member of this San Jose Sharks team.

This is underscored by his usage: Last year, he averaged 11:57 a night. That was 11th among Sharks forwards. This year, he’s playing 15:59 a night, 13:28 of that at even strength. Both figures are sixth among San Jose forwards.

The centerman has also become one of the most prolific shot blockers in the NHL, which I outlined last week: Gambrell is fifth among the league’s forwards, 300+ 5-on-5 minutes, at 4.17 Shots Blocked Per 60 at 5-on-5. This 4.17 is also a large leap from last year’s 2.6 Per 60.

So it’s no small news when Gambrell goes into the hallway because of a blocked shot, which is what occurred near the end of Wednesday night’s 4-2 victory over Minnesota. The San Jose Sharks have no ready replacement for their third-line center.

Include Bob Boughner as somebody impressed by how the 24-year-old’s game has grown. Consider opening night in Gila River Arena – Gambrell was not in the line-up and appeared a stone’s throw away from getting waived. But after being healthy scratched during the first four games of the season, Gambrell hasn’t sat out since.

“He’s accepted that’s the way he’s got to play. He’s digging in every night, you got to give him a lot of credit,” Boughner said. “When you’re not used to playing that way, you get out of your comfort zone a little bit, it takes some changing and some commitment.”

The San Jose Sharks head coach elaborated: “He’s got to be a guy that plays on the inside. That means in the D-zone, being that low forward, jumping in there, when our D separates man from puck. That means, being inside on the offensive zone and being heavier on pucks, holding onto pucks.

“We all know how great of a skater he is, the speed he can play at. But it’s finding that heaviness to his game. I think that’s the biggest difference.

“That’s why he wasn’t a regular out of training camp.”

It appears that Gambrell has found his NHL identity. The 2016 second-rounder was a go-to scorer in college and the AHL, who’s had big-league growing pains adjusting to being more of a role player at the highest level. And that’s okay, according to Boughner, who sees Gambrell following a path similar to ex-Sharks Barclay Goodrow and Chris Tierney.

“Finding how you’re going to stick around in this league and what you need to do on a nightly basis, that’s the biggest challenge,” Boughner offered.

“Center is such a hard position to master and there’s things you need to do as a young player that you didn’t have to do in college, and you maybe didn’t have to do in the American League.

“If you look at all those guys, Barclay, Chris Tierney, Dylan Gambrell, all those guys were big-time offensive players in juniors or college. Then you get to the pros, and you got to learn a different way to play the game. Because not everybody’s a top-six forward and not everybody’s a top-six centerman.”

Gambrell is learning that – and this season, he’s proving to be a quick study.

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