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Preview/Lines #50: How To Play Center in NHL? Eklund Turning to Granlund for Advice

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

The injured Mikael Granlund is still helping the San Jose Sharks up the middle.

William Eklund, playing his first NHL game as a center tonight, is still turning to the 31-year-old veteran, who’s been out since Jan. 16 with an upper-body injury, for counsel.

“He’s been giving me advice. After the games we’ll talk a little bit,” the 21-year-old, in his first full NHL season, shared. “Definitely gonna ask him about faceoff tips and tricks.”

Moreover, the 5-foot-11 Eklund looks toward the 5-foot-10 Granlund as something of a model for how a small man can make a big impact up the middle. Eklund has also been working on the ice with Nico Sturm and development coach Mike Ricci on faceoffs.

“Granny is a good centerman. He’s kind of my size too,” Eklund said. “He’s a smart player. He does things before everybody [can] think about it. That’s why I like him a lot.”

San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn agreed, noting that many young players could take a cue from Granlund.

Quinn thinks Eklund has the tools to cut it as an NHL center: “He’s strong. He’s got good hockey strength. He’s quick, which allows him to defend. He’s smart, and like I said, he’s quick, which gives him an opportunity to maybe close on people quickly, stay on the inside, have a good stick, and get people turned around, so we can get him some help.”

But keep in mind, this is an experiment, necessitated by injuries to Granlund and Tomas Hertl, and Quinn’s preference to leave Luke Kunin on the wing.

Eklund, who hasn’t played center since 2021-22 in Djurgardens, isn’t sure that’s where he’ll end up.

“I don’t know. It’s so hard to say,” he said. “I haven’t played my first game as a center in a while.”

San Jose Sharks (13-32-4)

Mackenzie Blackwood will start.

Lines tonight should look similar to yesterday’s practice lines:

Seattle Kraken (21-18-10)

This is how the Kraken lined up in their last game.

Where To Watch

Puck drop between the San Jose Sharks and Seattle Kraken is 7:30 PM PT at SAP Center. Watch it live on NBC Sports California. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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