SAN JOSE -- On the surface, it looked like a demotion -- Sharks coach Todd McLellan dropping Joe Pavelski to the third line after the usually reliable forward had only one goal in his past 18 games and no points at all in his past eight.
But the stat sheet after San Jose's 5-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday showed that it turned out to be anything but that. Pavelski's 20:47 in ice time -- the one stat that reflects a coach's sense of how a player is doing each game -- was second highest among the team's 12 forwards as he had his strongest outing in weeks at both ends of the ice.
"You feel it a little bit," Pavelski said after his first-period goal that ended his point drought. "You never want it to go eight in a row because you are aware of those things. For whatever reason, it keeps building sometimes. However many it was, it was probably that long since I played a complete game like tonight."
McLellan and Pavelski will look for a similar performance in Wednesday night's 7 p.m. rematch between the teams at HP Pavilion -- the first of a season-long seven straight games at home for a Sharks team on the playoff bubble.
Besides moving Pavelski to the third line, McLellan also shifted him back to center -- his original position before being used at wing much of the past few years -- between James Sheppard and TJ Galiardi. And, yes, getting Pavelski back on track was part of the motivation.
Like all of San Jose's top scorers, Pavelski began the season with a vengeance, scoring four goals and eight assists in the first seven games. Then his touch disappeared as he has added only four goals and three assists in the 24 games since.
"He has to pick it up, he knows that. He's a very honest guy," McLellan said in explaining his decision to move Pavelski, 28, back to center. "He's not fooling anybody, and not fooling himself. We expect more from him, and maybe this will trigger it."
Pavelski played down the change in position in a Sharks system that uses forwards interchangeably. He noted that even as a wing, he -- not Joe Thornton or Logan Couture -- takes faceoffs on the right side of the ice.
Pavelski's first game in this latest role showed his range. He had a team-high six shots on net, registered three hits and blocked two shots. On one penalty kill, he seemed to eat up nearly 30 seconds single-handedly with a persistent forecheck and a display of his puck-handling skills.
But he was more interested in sharing credit with his new linemates, including Sheppard, who scored his first goal as a Shark and first in the NHL since notching one for the Minnesota Wild on Dec. 11, 2009 -- nine months before the knee injury that cost him two seasons.
"We worked hard and did a lot of little things," Pavelski said. "When we had a chance to shoot pucks, we shot them. We didn't look for the perfect play. We got pucks to the net and made sure we tried to win our battles when we could."
Late in the 2010-11 season, Pavelski had a previous stint as a third-line center between Kyle Wellwood and Torrey Mitchell. For a while, that line provided the kind of scoring depth the Sharks are looking for now.
Pavelski, who had seven goals and 13 assists in the final 13 games that season, didn't mind the comparison.
"Yeah," he said, "probably one of my best runs ever."
Anaheim (22-6-4) at Sharks (14-11-6), 7 p.m. CSNCA