Joe Pavelski focusing on being healthy for Sharks' Stanley Cup playoff run

Joe Pavelski focusing on being healthy for Sharks' Stanley Cup playoff run

SAN JOSE – Sharks captain Joe Pavelski may not be quite ready to return to game action just yet, but a return could definitely be coming in the near future.

Pavelski skated on Wednesday morning ahead of the rest of the team’s practice and will accompany the Sharks on their two-game trip down to Southern California. While it isn’t likely he’ll play in the first game against the LA Kings, he said he feels better every day. 

“If I had to go, I’d find a way,” Pavelski told the media after Wednesday’s skate, adding he wants to be careful not to return too soon. “Just be a little cautious and go from there.”

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer doubled-down on the importance of getting Pavelski healthy.

“You don’t want to rush things unless you have to,” he said. “We’re going to do what’s right and make sure he’s back full-time.”

Pavelski missed the Sharks' previous game against the Vegas Golden Knights with a lower-body injury -- which he thinks he sustained after an awkward fall in Saturday's game against the Nashville Predators. Monday's absence marked the first time in eight years the Plover, Wisc., native has had to miss any game due to injury.
“It was a nice run obviously of good health and playing through a few issues along the way,” he said. “Hopefully we can go another eight years.”

Of course, San Jose is eager to have its captain and leading goal-scorer back in the lineup, not just because of what he adds to the Sharks on the ice, but how he leads off the ice as well. Even Gustav Nyquist, who has only played with the Sharks for a handful of games, can see the impact Pavelski has on the team.

“Great guy on and off the ice, and a role model for a lot of the younger guys in this room,” No. 14 said. “We’re lucky to have him.”

Whether Pavelski returns on the road trip or not, the Sharks have to find a way to get back into the win column – and getting back on track against a lowly team like the Kings is ideal. LA is the second-worst team in the entire league, putting up the second fewest goals per game. Their special teams are also pretty dismal with their penalty kill sitting at 29th overall in the league. (Which makes them a great team for the Sharks to face as they try to get their power play going again.)

[RELATED: Why Sharks' goaltending struggles don't bode well for Stanley Cup playoff run]

But while the Sharks no doubt want Pavelski back in the lineup as they try to turn things around, they also want him in tip-top shape for their upcoming playoff run. Having him healthy is key.

“One thing that always sticks out is good health for teams that win,” Pavelski said. “Especially at the crucial times, it’s nice to be healthy.”

Sharks credit perfect penalty kill in sealing big win over Hurricanes

Sharks credit perfect penalty kill in sealing big win over Hurricanes

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks' 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night was no easy feat.

In fact, the team was fairly unhappy with how they played in the first period at SAP Center, despite heading into the first intermission with a 3-1 lead. 

But the Sharks were happy with was how their special teams propelled them to their third straight win. Although a potent power play helped get them on the board early, the penalty kill made the biggest difference.

"Our penalty kill, we've taken a lot of pride in it for a long time," coach Peter DeBoer said. "It's been good for a few years here."

The Sharks ended the night with the NHL's third-best penalty kill with a 91.7 percent success rate. San Jose has not allowed a power-play goal in each of its last three wins.

Evander Kane's first-period hat trick gave the Sharks a boost, but they spent too much time in their own zone at even strength Wednesday. The Hurricanes, who were playing the second night of a back-to-back, gave San Jose netminder Martin Jones plenty of work to do. Carolina dominated the shot clock and had the game's better chances.

But when things got extra interesting in the second period and the Sharks got into penalty trouble, their kill came to the rescue. Barclay Goodrow, a mainstay on San Jose's penalty kill, credited the Sharks' short-handed success to their pace.

"We're moving our feet, we're pressuring the opposition," he summarized. "We're forcing them to make plays a little quicker than they would like to. I think that, and we're blocking shots. And we're getting clears when we want to, so it's going well."

The Hurricanes had a golden opportunity to climb out of their two-goal hole late in the second period. Goodrow and Patrick Marleau simultaneously sat in the penalty box for hooking minors, giving Carolina 46 seconds on the 5-on-3. 

But with help from Jones, the Sharks penalty kill kept the 'Canes off the scoreboard.

"Your goalie's always your best penalty killer," DeBoer said. "He was really solid. I thought that first period [the score] could've been 3-3. He's given us two really good games in a row."

[RELATED: Watch Kane score Sharks' first-ever first-period hat trick]

While every game carries its own momentum, the Sharks undoubtedly would like for the success of their penalty kill to carry over into their next game.

The Sharks close out their three-game homestand Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres, who currently have the second-best power play in the league. As a result, San Jose knows its penalty kill will once again be a key point. 

"We're going to be playing a good Buffalo team," Sharks captain Logan Couture observed. "I think they lost tonight but they've been playing very, very well. Their power play is very hot. So it'll be a good test for us."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win over red-hot Hurricanes

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win over red-hot Hurricanes

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks knew the Carolina Hurricanes would be a big test Wednesday night at SAP Center. If that test was being graded, you would be hard-pressed not to give them an A.

Fueled by Evander Kane's first-period hat trick and a potent power play, the Sharks played perhaps their best game to date and stymied the Hurricanes in a 5-2 win.

Here are three takeaways from San Jose's third straight win.

Evander Kane, obviously

When a player becomes the first in Sharks history to score a hat trick before the first period ended, not giving him his own takeaway would be a crime. 

Kane's first goal deserves some recognition because of how quickly he scooped up the loose puck at Tomas Hertl's feet to chip it past Hurricanes netminder James Reimer.

But his next two power-play goals were also impressive, and his third was downright Pavelskian.

The Sharks struggled to get traffic in front of the net during their winless start, but Kane and his teammates have been much better lately getting in the goalie's grill. On Wednesday night, that effort paid off. Big time.

Martin Jones keeps rolling

When Jones made a swift glove save on Teuvo Teravainen 1:07 into the game, you could tell he was about to have another strong outing.

The 'Canes spent most of the game in the Sharks' zone, and Carolina dominated the shot clock for the duration. But Jones was in the zone.

The Sharks won't be happy that Jones faced a lot of strong chances, even if San Jose collectively did a better job at minimizing the turnovers in this game. At least with both goaltenders playing well, the Sharks have a better chance of keeping those mistakes out of the back of their net.

[RELATED: Sharks' Labanc keeping focus on future after turnaround]

A special night for the power play and penalty kill

When the Sharks' special teams were in a rough state at the very start of the season, coach Peter DeBoer said he wasn't worried about it. He had a feeling it would figure itself out, and he was right.

In addition to Kane's two power-play goals, the Sharks penalty kill came up big in the second period when they killed off the Hurricanes' two-man advantage. Even though Carolina was visibly tired due to playing on the tail end of a back-to-back, the Eastern Conference leaders were still getting some good looks in front of Jones. The Sharks penalty kill, however, was on point. 

That bodes well for Saturday when the Sharks host the Buffalo Sabres, who currently have the NHL's second-best power play.