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.”

NHL rumors: Brinson Pasichnuk, Sharks nearing contract agreement


NHL rumors: Brinson Pasichnuk, Sharks nearing contract agreement

The Sharks reportedly are close to adding some promising defensive depth to their organization.

San Jose is nearing agreement on a contract with Arizona State defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk, The Athletic's Kevin Kurz first reported and The Hockey News' Ken Campbell and Bay Area News Group's Curtis Pashelka later confirmed.

Pasichnuk, 22, scored 107 points (39 goals, 68 assists) in 136 games over four seasons with the Sun Devils. The 6-foot, 180-pound defenseman ranked third among blueliners with 37 points this season, tying for second in goals (11) behind only Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist David Farrance of Boston University.

Campbell reported Monday that Pasichnuk narrowed down his 20 suitors to the Sharks and Arizona Coyotes. He told The Hockey News that he knows where he is signing, but is "just waiting to see what (the NHL is doing)" for the remainder of the season during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sharks got a glimpse at Pasichnuk last summer when he skated in the team's development camp, along with his brother, Steen. The NHL's Central Scouting Bureau ranked the younger Pasichnuk 115th out of all draft-eligible skaters in 2016, but the defenseman was not drafted.

[RELATED: Sharks' Burns says teachers are legends amid pandemic]

A standout collegiate career got him on to NHL scouts' radar, and Pasichnuk conceivably could be in line for playing time this season -- assuming the Sharks play if the season resumes -- or next. Nikolai Knyzhov and Jacob Middleton have played on San Jose's third defense pairing since Brenden Dillon was traded to the Washington Capitals last month, and Pasichnuk -- a left-shooting defenseman like those three -- could then slot in behind Radim Simek and Mario Ferraro.

Ferraro, 21, and top prospect Ryan Merkley, 19, are the Sharks' most promising young defensemen. Pasichnuk's time at Arizona State indicates he'll warrant consideration, too. 

How Sharks' wild comeback win vs. Predators epitomized 2018-19 season

How Sharks' wild comeback win vs. Predators epitomized 2018-19 season

Progamming note: Watch the re-air of the Sharks' comeback win over the Nashville Predators from Oct. 23, 2018 tonight at 8 PT on NBC Sports California.

They didn't know it at the time, but a win over the Nashville Predators on Oct. 23, 2018 ultimately laid bare the Sharks' strengths -- and weaknesses -- that would define their 2018-19 season.

The Sharks beat the Predators 5-4 that night in Nashville, overcoming a two-goal deficit with just under eight minutes remaining in the third period with a three-goal barrage in five minutes and 28 seconds. San Jose’s offense could keep up with just about any team last season, and lackluster goaltending largely necessitated said firepower.

Martin Jones stopped just 25 of the 29 shots he faced, even though the Sharks outshot the Predators in all situations (32-29) and held slight edges in 5-on-5 shot attempts, shots and scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. Nashville created more high-danger chances (8-6) and expected goals (1.46-1.38) than San Jose at full strength.

Only the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning scored more goals (319) than the Sharks (289) last season, which was the most prolific in franchise history. Yet the Sharks finished with just a plus-31 goal differential, as Jones and backup goaltender Aaron Dell posted career-worst save percentages while the Sharks allowed the NHL’s 11th-most goals (258).

The Sharks ranked no worse than 12th in suppressing high-danger chances, scoring chances and expected goals at full strength, yet San Jose allowed 111 5-on-5 high-danger goals in the NHL. Only the Ottawa Senators -- defenseman Erik Karlsson’s former team -- and the Edmonton Oilers allowed more, and those teams finished an average of 22.5 points outside of the postseason.

But the Sharks had enough offensive talent to overcome their goaltending woes, finishing two wins shy of a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. San Jose was too depleted to hang with the St. Louis Blues by the end of the Western Conference final, but a healthy Sharks team would’ve had a great chance to advance. The 2018-19 Sharks were an elite puck-possession team, capable of scoring in myriad ways.

That was evident in the aforementioned comeback win over the Predators. The Sharks scored twice on the power play, twice at even strength and once short-handed. Brenden Dillon got the comeback started with an end-to-end rush on the penalty kill, then-captain Joe Pavelski finished off a 3-on-2 fewer than 30 seconds later and a pair of Norris Trophy winners -- Karlsson and Brent Burns -- combined to seal the victory.

[RELATED: Sharks' Burns says "teachers are legends" amid pandemic]

The Sharks couldn’t have known their ninth game of 2018-19 would prove so instructive, but the win over the Predators set the tone for what was to come.

For better and worse.