I think it's a lot of reading the opposing players. Other players have different tendencies. If you're going against like [Tomas] Plekanec from Montreal, he tends to tie up and kind of block your stick from sweeping through and uses his feet. I think you have to be able to adjust throughout the course of the game.
It's more just experience playing against guys. Whether you're on your forehand or your backhand you have to adjust as well. If somebody is doing something, you might want to talk it over with your wingers or defensemen and say listen, 'This guy's been tying my stick up all night.' So that creates a battle there so just come in and help. Because a lot of times if you're not going to win it clean you need help from your linemates or the two defensemen.
It's definitely a five-man responsibility. Obviously the center bears it on his shoulders the most and gets credit for it and when he loses it gets the blame, but your linemates have to show some awareness with being quick to jump in there. A lot of times it's a stalemate there where the puck's just laying there and you need that extra help from the wingers. Any center will tell you that the success of the center has a lot to do with the wingers and the defensemen.
Obviously it helps me a lot working on it. We do it always after morning game-day skates, and we have some pretty good faceoff men on this team. Bergy is one of the best, Bergy, Kells and Pevs are all extremely good at it. They've been working at it for a long time, so I try to learn from them.
I think it helps. Right now we have two righties playing center and two lefties playing center, so I think Claude does a good job of reading the game, seeing who's doing well on that particular night and putting us out there in situations where we're going to succeed. Sometimes it's tough for a lefty to go out there on his weak side against somebody that's good on draws who's on his strong side. So he'll put out two righties and if one gets kicked out he has confidence that the other can go in and win it. We also have the ability to have more than one natural centerman on a few lines, so that's something that helps too.
I think in the offensive zone sometimes you're more creative. You set up a play off a draw. In the offensive zone it's more about getting the win, and winning it clean. In the defensive zone it doesn't matter if you tie up, as long as you get the help. You just don't want to lose it clean. In the offensive zone sometimes you want to go forward and make a play off it that way, but in the defensive zone it's all about not losing it clean.
Some linesmen are more strict than others. They won't let you cheat as much. And every centerman in the league cheats. That's something that you have to kind of push your limits to see what you can get away with. Worst-case scenario you get kicked out, but there's always a little battle in the faceoff circle with the two centermen trying to get leverage and trying to get your stick in there, your head in there, your body in there and disrupt his stride. Most linesmen are consistent, but you defini
tely want to be aware of that.