Friday, April 6, 2012

Gaustad continues to dominate the face off circle for Predators in 2-0 win over Dallas

The Nashville Predators and Dallas stars hooked up in a classic battle between two teams fighting in the trenches for playoff positions on Thursday night at the Bridgestone Arena.

The game was a scoreless standoff until Frankie Bouillon broke through with a goal on a rebound with 15:32 remaining in the contest. The only other score in the game was on a goal from Patric Hornqvist with two minutes remaining which capped off the 2-0 final score.

Pekka Rinne was stellar in goal stopping all 28 Dallas shots, in route to his fifth shutout of the season and NHL leading 43 win. Rinne earned the game's first star for a series of highlight reel save from point blank range against a Stars team that was doing anything they could to salvage their season.

The loss eliminated a desperate Dallas team from the playoffs. The Stars fought for every inch of the ice for 60 minutes and never gave up through the final horn.

One of David Poile's deadline pick-ups was a key to the defensive win over the Stars. Center Paul Gaustad commanded the high price of a first round pick in this summer's NHL entry draft in Pittsburgh but he has been paying dividends in each game down the stretch.

He has been used as a faceoff specialist, primarily in the defensive zone, since his arrival at the trade deadline. Against Dallas, Gaustad won 15 of 23 faceoffs, including going 10 of 16 in the circles in front of the Predators net.

Predators coach Barry Trotz commented on Gaustad's contribution in the circle after the game. "That's what he does. Goose is 57% from the right side and 57% from the left side. That is his 'go to' card. He is good. He was a great add for us."

Gaustad is the consummate team player and knows what he is expected to do which is win faceoffs. "It is a part of my game. I just need to make sure I contribute so I just focus on draws."

He also credits his teammates for his success. "On faceoffs it's not just one guy it's wingers and sometime defensemen helping out. It is a total team effort."

Fans will notice that he is on the ice for almost every defensive zone faceoff and was tied for the most shifts of all forwards in the game with Dallas. Gaustad explained the statistical anomaly, "In the defensive zone, we want to get possession right away and once that happens, I try to get off (the ice) and get the lines back together."

Gaustad has made a name for himself in the NHL with his faceoff skill from both sides of the circle. "I try to take them from both sides, whatever way I can win them. Throughout my career I have paid attention to faceoffs and have gotten better every year."

Gaustad is one of five players that were additions to the Predators after the midpoint of the season and sees the method to David Poile's in-season plug and play handiwork. "Everybody has a role on the team and everyone has to accept that role and so far everyone has done that so we have to continue to get better and stronger as a team."

At the end of the season, on July 1, Gaustad will be a free agent and can chose where he wants to play. He is happy with the Predators and complemented the crowd that extended the franchise sellout record to 25 games on Thursday night. "It's great. It is extremely loud and passionate and it is fun to play in front of them."

In spite of his current success, Gaustad is not thinking past this year's playoff run. "It's a great team. I'm not focused long term, just on helping out right now. It's been really good. It's been fun so we'll just see how we do in the playoffs."

With the Preds' win, combined with Detroit's loss to New Jersey, Nashville control's it's own destiny and can capture a fourth place finish and a home ice advantage in the opening round with a win in the final game in Colorado on Saturday at 8 p.m. (CDT).

That position is exactly where Gaustad and the rest of the team wants to be, "You want to control your own destiny and we have to take care of business in Colorado."

More Later...

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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