When Jerred Smithson was traded to the Florida Panthers on February 25, the Nashville Predators were left with a large gap to fill. By far the top faceoff player on the team in terms of percentage, it would be up to David Poile to find someone to fill Smithson’s spot on the roster.
On February 27, Poile did just that, bringing in center Paul Gaustad from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for the Predators first-round pick in the upcoming draft. With a 57.1% faceoff percentage, Gaustad currenly sits in 7th in the NHL. By comparison, Smithson has a 55.7% faceoff percentage and sits 16th in the NHL.
In his 3 games with the Predators so far, Gaustad has taken 50 draws and won 31 of them for a 62.0% winning percentage.
In Thursday night’s victory over the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena, Gaustad began the game winning just 2 of his first 6 draws, but as the game wound to a close, he won 5 of his final 6.
Gaustad spoke his late success after the game, but tried to minimize any affect that the current game situation had on his faceoff wins.
“I don’t really look at faceoffs as one is more important than the other,” Gaustad said. “I try to address them as if they are all important. I had a stretch where I wasn’t doing too well there. They are a good draw team. I have to give them credit for the way they battled in the faceoff dot. Of course, they went my way in the end.”
On the night, Gaustad won 4 of 5 faceoffs in the Nashville zone after the Predators took the lead. In his first three games as a Predator, Gaustad has won 21 of his 30 shots in the defensive zone. According to Nashville’s head coach Barry Trotz, the plan was for him to take several more.
“He didn’t get a lot of faceoffs,” Trotz said. “Every time I’d put him in the defensive zone, he’d get kicked out.”
However, Trotz was also quick to point out that Gaustad’s win on a draw in the Colorado zone in the first period put the Predators’ in the driver’s seat for the night.
“He won a big one in the offensive zone for the (Yip) goal and a big one towards the end,” Trotz said. “He’ll be really useful for us.”
As for Gaustad, he was quick to credit his teammates for success on the play.
“We talk before the game on where we want to be as a line on faceoffs and the guys executed on it,” Gaustad said.