DALLAS -- Joe Pavelski isn't sure what to expect when he plays at the San Jose Sharks for the first time with the Dallas Stars on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, NBCSCA, FS-SW+, NHL.TV).
"Who knows what kind of feelings or what kind of experience it will be," the Stars forward said. "I'm just really looking forward to getting back there and I'm excited that it's getting closer."
Pavelski played his first 13 NHL seasons with the Sharks and was captain for the last four. After he became an unrestricted free agent following last season and was unable to work out a return to the Sharks, the 35-year-old signed a three-year contract worth $7 million per season with the Stars on July 1.
"You always have the belief that something is going to happen, but until it does, that's all you know," Pavelski said of staying in San Jose. "As things started to develop and you understood that the chances were getting slimmer and slimmer, you started looking ahead and being prepared. It was a gradual process."
Pavelski, selected by San Jose in the seventh round (No. 205) of the 2003 NHL Draft, is fourth in games played (963), second in goals (355), and third in points (761) in Sharks history.
Although the Sharks reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 12 of Pavelski's 13 seasons, including the Stanley Cup Final in 2015-16, the 35-year-old said his favorite part about his time in San Jose was the people surrounding him.
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"Just going to the rink every day," Pavelski said. "Playing with awesome teammates, an awesome staff, the different coaches we had, the training staff, and the equipment guys. It's just those friendships that, when looking back, you always really enjoy those moments.
"It's the same here. When you come to the rink and see the faces and everyone's happy, that's great. Even in the ups and downs, you always went through them together with good people with a lot of good character. It allows you to get through stuff like that."
Pavelski is seventh on the Stars with 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 44 games and fourth with three power-play goals. He is averaging 17:33 per game, second among Stars forwards to Tyler Seguin (19:02). Pavelski has four points (one goal, three assists) in his past 12 games and said he is building chemistry on a line with Denis Gurianov and Roope Hintz and the rest of his teammates.
"Yeah, it's coming," Pavelski said. "Each little bit and each experience that we go through, like a road trip, it gets a little bit easier. There's still a lot of hockey left and a lot of things that can happen."
In addition to having to uproot his family from San Jose to Dallas, Pavelski had to adjust to a new team and two new coaches, with Rick Bowness replacing Jim Montgomery on Dec. 10. Pavelski also played in front of 85,630 fans at the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Nashville Predators at Cotton Bowl Stadium on Jan. 1.
"It has been a crazy five or six months from free agency, to selling a house, to buying a house, to moving in, new schools, my first game, coaches, and the Winter Classic. It's been a lot of fun," he said.
Pavelski said he is not sure what to expect when he takes the ice at SAP Center on Saturday but he's ready to embrace the moment.
"I spent so much time there, so I'm definitely looking forward to heading back," he said, "seeing different friends, teammates and everything like that."