Paul Gaustad was back in the lineup for the Predators this week after missing four games with an upper body injury.
In his return to the ice Wednesday he won 15 of 19 faceoffs, and that's his unique specialty.
"I've learned that to stay in this league, it's difficult with young guys coming up and pushing the older guys," Gaustad said.
That seems to be the trick in the NHL: figure out what your niche is and concentrate on it.
At about 6'5" - and 6'9" wearing skates - Gaustad is an imposing figure on the ice. Hockey came naturally to him, growing up in cold Fargo, ND.
In 2000, Gaustad was a seventh round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, where he played his role of a tough-fisted forward.
When the Preds picked him up last year, they wanted a big body in front of the opposing goaltender and a faceoff specialist with a rare ability to snatch the puck with either hand.
"That was something where there were some weaknesses in faceoffs. I was getting beat by guys who were able to do that in a faceoff," Gaustad said.
He said the team will watch the other teams' faceoffs beforehand to see what their tendencies are.
On Feb. 9, Gaustad was involved in one of the oddest faceoffs of the year when a bad drop by the linesman led to the puck bouncing back up in overtime against the Minnesota Wild. Gaustad hit the puck with his glove, which drew a delay of game penalty.
The Wild then quickly scored the game-winning goal on a power play.
"Yeah, it was tough to stay quiet," Gaustad said. "Yelling at the refs sometimes, it doesn't do too much. You have to keep the emotions in control."
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