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Second Round

Pavelski details injury, 'getting closer' to return to Sharks in playoffs

Out since final game of first round, traveling for Game 6 against Avalanche

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski feels better and hopes to return in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after sustaining head injuries against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 of the Western Conference First Round on April 23.

He was set to travel with the Sharks to Denver on Sunday. They lead the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in the second round with Game 6 of the best-of-7 series at Pepsi Center on Monday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

How close is he to playing?

"That's a good question," he said. "You'd like to think you could play tomorrow. But we're going to be smart, obviously. Definitely getting closer. Feel like I'm getting closer. Feel like I want it."

 

[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Avalanche series coverage]

 

Pavelski spoke publicly Sunday for the first time since that Game 7, recounting the drama, saying he had no issue with the play, detailing his symptoms and praising his teammates for their response.

With the Sharks down 3-0 at 9:06 of the third period that night, Pavelski won a face-off in the right circle in the offensive zone, drawing the puck back to the right point.

Golden Knights center Cody Eakin cross-checked Pavelski, knocking him off balance. In the next split-second, Golden Knights center Paul Stastny ran into Pavelski, who fell hard, hit his head on the ice and lay motionless.

Video: Mike Kelly discusses the Sharks' Game 7 overtime win

Teammates Joe Thornton and Evander Kane helped Pavelski off the ice with a trainer, with defenseman Brent Burns right behind. The whole way, Thornton cradled Pavelski's head, holding a towel to his bleeding wound.

"I do remember quite a bit of it," Pavelski said. "Some of it I've seen on video by now. But yeah, just the face-off, I remember taking it. I don't really remember a whole lot after of getting pushed and all that stuff. The first thing that kind of came back was getting helped off, and [Thornton] was right there, just calming me down."

What did Thornton say to him?

"Just, 'We got you. We got you. You're going to be all right,' " Pavelski said. "You had a little bit of a sense that it was fairly serious. But just coming back [to the bench], that was definitely one comforting thing, I think."

Eakin received a five-minute major for cross-checking and a game misconduct at 9:13. But Pavelski didn't know that at the time. He went to the training room.

"Getting the first staple in the head was probably when the first goal horn went off," Pavelski said. "And [I remember] just kind of being like, 'What was that? Did we score?' 'Yeah.' But I think by the time the fourth or fifth staple was going in, it was going off again. It was just kind of like, 'All right, cool.' " 

Video: COL@SJS, Gm5: Pavelski gets the crowd pumped in 3rd

The Sharks scored four goals during the major to take a 4-3 lead. Logan Couture scored at 9:20, forward Tomas Hertl at 10:09, Couture again at 12:53 and then forward Kevin Labanc at 13:21. They were the eighth-fastest four goals by one team in a Stanley Cup Playoff game.

"I remember sitting down in the office just kind of looking at the TV," Pavelski said. "I think the score was 4-3, and it was just kind of like, 'How did we score all these goals? How did we get the power play?' "

Pavelski did not blame Eakin or Stastny. He is friends with Stastny, with whom he has played internationally for the United States.

"I've got no issues with that play," Pavelski said. "Was it a five-minute major? No. I don't think it was. There's different aspects. Am I glad they called it that way? Heck, yeah.

"The refs have a very tough job with how plays happen. It was a scary play, and it gets twisted and everything. Was it malicious or anything like that? I don't believe so. It's part of the game. I got twisted up, got bumped on the way down, hit the head.

"Again, glad it was called that way. But then, from that moment on, what the guys did after it, to actually go and do that and score four goals, is … You know … It was a special night. It was one of the tougher nights and one of the better nights at the same time to see and be a part of."

Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault tied the game 4-4 with 47 seconds left in regulation. But Pavelski had faith.

"For me, there was a cool, calming sense that I was going to get a chance to hopefully recover and get another chance to play still in this postseason," he said.

Center Barclay Goodrow scored at 18:19 of overtime to give San Jose a 5-4 win. The Sharks became the second team in NHL history to overcome a three-goal, third-period deficit and win a Game 7, following the Boston Bruins, who defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-4 in the first round in 2013.

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm7: Goodrow nets series-winner in OT

Pavelski ended up taking more staples in his head, but it could have been worse.

"I think there was eight in there," he said. "Just a pressure cut. I think the helmet did its job. It stayed on first and foremost, which in those situations, you know, they can come off. Stayed on. Did everything it was supposed to do, I think."

He celebrated with his teammates in the locker room after the game, then rested and recovered.

"I had the headaches and was dizzy at that moment, but was able to come out," he said. "I wanted to be in that room. I was still very excited for those guys. And then we went and got everything checked out after. …

"That night was a little tougher from headaches and everything that comes with that. But after I woke up that next day, it was … I wouldn't say I suffered with headaches or this or that. It was, I just knew I'd been dinged, and I was laying pretty low. ...

"It was pretty quiet for me. I didn't have a ton of sensitivity to light. If I looked at my phone for a little bit longer than a glance, you just get kind of tired. TVs, you didn't want them loud, but they could be on. It just kind of stayed at that for a little bit.

"For now, definitely everything's been improving the last four or five days. I've been able to train a little bit and get through some of those training sessions and skate a little bit and start working our way back."

Pavelski made his first public appearance since April 23 in the third period of the Sharks' 2-1 win in Game 5 at SAP Center on Saturday, waving a rally towel, pumping a fist and smiling.

"The fans have been great," he said. "Friends and family, everybody's been tremendous. The support, I really felt it, and I think as a player you really appreciate that in a moment like this.

"The biggest thing is just to see what the guys have been doing. It's encouraging to see them really dig in and play just how I know they can play and how we as a group want to play. It's fun to see that. So we're always just looking for that consistency and keep going. But they've done a tremendous job."

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