ANAHEIM, Calif. – Coach Adam Oates has shuffled the lines quite frequently in recent weeks and games, sometimes mixing up the units shift to shift, which seems like a lot of change for a team that has struggled to find steady chemistry outside of the third line this season.
Is Oates reacting to injuries to Brooks Laich and Mikhail Grabovski? Partially. Does Oates intend to find lines he will stick with over any stretch of time? Not necessarily.
Faced with those questions Monday, Oates explained that when the Sharks visited Washington on Jan. 14 he took note of the way San Jose Coach Todd McLellan handled a lineup that was missing Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl at the time.
“He basically rotated [Joe] Thornton, [Joe] Pavelski, [Patrick] Marleau with the rest of the lines, and it made it very difficult to match against them in the game and it was a great game,” Oates said. “Ever since then, I’ve been thinking about it in terms of what our formula of our program should be so if one guy goes out, one guy steps into the puzzle. We change the lines we don’t break stride, and that’s really what you want: The team should play like a team no matter what.”
San Jose has much more top-tier forward depth on its veteran-laden roster. Many players have worked together for several years, and McLellan is in his sixth season as coach. How well that mind-set will serve Washington down the stretch remains to be seen, especially given the limitations of the lineup without Grabovski and Laich in the mix.
But for now, Oates is willing to experiment rather than leave a group together that might be fighting to find chemistry.
“You want to have the guys know each other, no question,” Oates said. “But if something’s stale or in the course of a game you’re struggling, you should be able to change it up.”