Sharks

Joe Pavelski reflects on San Jose return, believes Sharks 'did it right'

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AP

Joe Pavelski reflects on San Jose return, believes Sharks 'did it right'

Tissues were in high demand Saturday night when Joe Pavelski played his first game in San Jose since leaving the Sharks for the Dallas Stars over the summer.

Before the teams dropped the puck, a tribute video was played in SAP Center, and there weren't many dry eyes left when it was over.

Following the video. Sharks fans gave the former captain a lengthy standing ovation, which was a bit awkward for a guy who played 13 seasons in San Jose.

"It was awesome. It was pretty cool," Pavelski told reporters after the Sharks' 2-1 win. "This is a special place to myself, my family. To be out there when the building is full like that, I wanted to get on with the [national] anthem, but they wouldn't let me.

"It was pretty special. I've always had, I believe, a pretty special bond with these fans and those guys over there, and it was just a tremendous night. They did it right. Thanks to everyone involved out there and everyone that showed up tonight. Would have liked to win, for sure, but it was pretty special."

Pavelski shed blood, sweat and tears with a lot of the Sharks players he faced Saturday, which made his time on the ice a bit strange.

"It had a little bit of everything," Pavelski said. "It was weird, it was fun. It was fun just seeing the other guys and taking face-offs against a few guys. There were a few good lines out there."

Pavelski and the Stars arrived in the Bay Area on Friday, giving him time to explore the city he called home for 13 years.

"It was nice having the day off yesterday, you know, to buzz around town and see a few faces and do a few things," Pavelski said. "Not feel like I was rushed and have a few good conversations along the way.

"And today, showing up, it was, coming out of the visiting side, was a little different seeing that jersey. It was weird a few times, when you heard, whether it was 88 [Brent Burns] or Joe Thornton, my mind kinda went back, you're waiting for your name to be called. It was kinda weird how it just came and all the noises, all the sounds, smells, everything brought back good memories."

[RELATED: Pavelski's 1-on-1 with Brodie Brazil]

The Sharks picked Pavelski in the seventh round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and developed him into the face of the franchise. He represented the Sharks in three All-Star Games and wore the "C" on his sweater for four seasons.

Pavelski was told that several of the Sharks' North American scouts were in attendance for his return, and he was asked what that meant to him.

"That's just the bond that I have with them, and vica versa," Pavelski said. "I was always thankful they took a chance on me. I think [Sharks amateur scout] Pat Funk was a big key to that, pushing for me.

"The opportunity I was given, I was able to have success with that first opportunity and going on a little run and getting myself established there, and then every year, trying to build on it and add layers and keep getting better. There's a lot of special people over there."

It was an emotional night for everyone involved, and no one will forget it. As Pavelski said himself, it was done right.

How Sharks' Joe Thornton taught Rick Nash to be a pro in Switzerland

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USATSI

How Sharks' Joe Thornton taught Rick Nash to be a pro in Switzerland

Joe Thornton currently is in his 15th season with the Sharks after being acquired by San Jose in a trade with the Boston Bruins during the 2005-06 NHL season. He spent the previous year in Davos, Switzerland while the league remained in lockout, where he paired up with one of the NHL's rising young stars.

More than a decade-and-a-half later, Rick Nash still fondly remembers the time he spent playing alongside one of the most prolific passers to ever play the sport.

"When me and Joe first played together in Switzerland, it was really kind of instant chemistry," Nash recalled to NBC Sports California. "For the first couple games, we played together. On the power play, we played the whole season together. The easy thing about playing with Jumbo was he told you, 'Just go to the net with your stick down. Go to the high slot with your stick on the ice and I'll find you.' We had a lot of success with that over the years, at World Championships, obviously in Davos.

"He's such an easy guy to play with and his skill is so high and his passing ability is so high, it just makes sense why he has that many assists in the NHL."

At last check, Thornton was up to 1,082 career assists, good enough for seventh place on the NHL's all-time list. You don't accumulate that many helpers without being supremely skilled, but as Nash explained, Thornton always has brought a lot more to the table than what he could do with the puck.

"The thing that made Joe different from other teammates was, No. 1, off the ice, he was always a happy guy, always had a smile on his face," Nash said. "He was always around the rink. For me, being a younger guy, he was someone I looked up to on how to be a pro, how to extend my career, how to be good to the other guys that I was kind of taking under my wing. On the ice, it was obviously his skill to make plays and make passes. 

"For me and my style of game, I was always a shooter. I always liked to score goals, so we kind of accompanied each other perfectly. To this day, I don't think there's an easier guy to play with than Joe."

[RELATED: Would Sharks really trade Thornton or Marleau this year?]

To spend 22 seasons in the NHL -- and one in the top Swiss league -- it requires not only an abundance of talent, but competitiveness to match. According to Nash, while he has seen plenty of Thornton's competitive streak on the ice, he experienced it off of it, as well. Specifically, when it came to the board game of world domination known as "Risk."

"We started this game with his brothers and his friends and my friends," Nash explained with a chuckle. "Dinner time would roll around, and we would bring the Risk board to dinner. So if you could only imagine trying to keep all those pieces on the board driving the car through the Swiss mountains to get to dinner to set up our Risk game, and once we got there, guys would be arguing about how many soldiers they had on which country. 

"It was always that stuff away from the rink that made hanging out with him so fun."

The Sharks know as well as anyone just how fun and talented Thornton can be. While world domination is a lofty goal, they'd all gladly settle for a Stanley Cup.

NHL rumors: Sharks' Brenden Dillon of interest to Bruins, 'half dozen' teams

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AP

NHL rumors: Sharks' Brenden Dillon of interest to Bruins, 'half dozen' teams

The market for Brenden Dillon is heating up. It's sounding like more of a "when" rather than an "if" the Sharks' defenseman will be moved.

In a season where very little has gone right for San Jose, Dillon has been one of the few, consistent bright spots. He has appeared in every game while averaging over 19 minutes of ice time, and he leads all Sharks' defensemen in plus-minus. According to TSN Insiders Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun, the closer the NHL gets to the trade deadline, the more teams reportedly are inquiring about the blue-liner who is on pace to lead the Sharks in hits for the fourth straight season. 

"Most definitely the Winnipeg Jets are in the market for a specific top-four defenseman," Dreger reported Tuesday. "Now, it could be a rental player, it could be a player with some term. They're not ruling out anything at this point."

Dillon is in the final year of his contract and is due to hit unrestricted free agency this summer, so he would fall into the rental category. Given the price Dillon is likely to command, that might not be ideal for Winnipeg, but Dreger noted that the Dustin Byfuglien situation -- as well as Bryan Little and Adam Lowry's respective recoveries from injury -- could force the Jets' hand.

LeBrun agreed that Dillon would make plenty of sense for Winnipeg, but didn't stop there.

"I don't think he would be on the top of their list, but certainly on the list of players that the Jets would have compiled already, I think Brenden Dillon would be on there somewhere," LeBrun said. "Pending UFA, he's a defenseman that's going to be dealt by the San Jose Sharks. He's a No. 4 for some teams, a No. 5 for others. I can tell you half-a-dozen teams so far have shown interest, including, I'm told, the Boston Bruins. Obviously a rugged, defensive defenseman in Brenden Dillon would be a nice fit there in Boston. Carolina Hurricanes, who just lost Dougie Hamilton, have also been among the teams that have shown interest." 

"It will not be an issue moving Brenden Dillon," LeBrun summarized. "The question is what can San Jose get out of it? I think it's probably going to be a second-round pick, and maybe a prospect."

[RELATED: If Sharks' Marleau doesn't pick goal song, his wife will]

The Sharks are still holding out hope for a playoff push, but whether or not they are successful in that pursuit, Dillon might be of more value to them elsewhere.