Joe Pavelski Game 3 TONIGHT bug

DALLAS -- It was Friday, the day after the Dallas Stars lost 3-2 in double overtime in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. Each player who had battled the Edmonton Oilers stayed off the ice for an optional practice.

Except one.

Joe Pavelski.

The 39-year-old forward is in the Western Conference Final for the seventh time, trying to make the Stanley Cup Final for the third time, trying to win the Cup for the first time.

He had appeared in his 196th game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, passing his former San Jose Sharks teammate Patrick Marleau for most playoff games without a championship.

He had scored 74 goals in the playoffs in his NHL career, most among players without a championship and most among active players. But even though he had nine goals in 14 playoff games last season and 27 goals in 82 games in the regular season, he had only one goal in 14 games on this run at that point.

Asked why he was on the ice, he showed why he made the NHL as a seventh-round pick (No. 205) in the 2003 NHL Draft, why he made himself a star and why he continues to contribute to the Stars even amid his scoring struggles.

“I believe I have probably more to give,” Pavelski said. “There’s certain areas of my game that have been fine and good and certain areas that need to improve. So, at the end of the day, there’s no excuses for me that way.

“It’s about finding it and wanting it. This is a great time of the season to be playing. It’s not all about rest, as much as you get. There’s still times where you’ve got to push and get some reps in, and it’s just probably wanting more out there. We all do.”

Pavelski was out early for an optional morning skate Saturday, working on his craft. As he has done for many years, he camped in front of the net and deflected puck after puck after puck as a teammate took shot after shot after shot from the point.

In his 197th playoff game Saturday, he went yet another game without a goal and played 14:03, his lowest total of the playoffs. But he did whatever he could to help Dallas win 3-1 and tie the best-of-7 series 1-1.

He went 11-for-18 on face-offs (61.1 percent). He blocked three shots, including one on defenseman Mattias Ekholm with 3:34 to go and the Stars protecting a 2-1 lead and another on center Connor McDavid with 56 seconds left and the Stars protecting a 3-1 lead short-handed.

Dallas coach Pete DeBoer made sure to list Pavelski when he mentioned players who had big blocked shots down the stretch.

DeBoer knows Pavelski well. He coached him in San Jose for four seasons starting in 2015-16 and has coached him in Dallas the past two seasons.

“I’m trying to give Joe his space,” DeBoer said the morning of Game 2. “Joe’s as much coach as he is player, but at the same time, you still have player insecurities if you’re not producing. This is a guy that has produced his entire career, but he also knows that you’re going to go stretches in the playoffs without producing. You can’t ride those waves too high or too low, and I think he gets that.

“He’s so professional in his approach, not only in working on his own game, but [setting an example]. The message to the other guys in the room on that, I think, is critical. ‘Look, you know what? I’m not happy with myself, you know, and look, I’m going to do something about it.’ I think that messaging is fantastic leadership.”

The story of Pavelski taking center Wyatt Johnston into his home the past two seasons is well told by now. But it isn’t just a cute story. The Stars asked Pavelski to mentor the kid when he was breaking into the NHL at just 19 years old. Johnston is mature and skilled for his age in his own right, but Pavelski has helped him learn how to be a pro.

“Obviously, everybody gets to see what he does at the rink, but I get to see kind of what he does away from the rink, just how much he does to make sure he’s ready to play every night,” said Johnston, who turned 21 on May 14. “It’s impressive what he’s been doing at his age, and [you can] see there’s a reason, just kind of the way he treats his body and how much work he puts into the game. It’s a great example for everyone, what he’s doing. He’s putting in that work.”

Game 3 is at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET; CBC, TVAS, SN, TNT, truTV, MAX).

“He still gets it done,” DeBoer said entering the series. “It might not look like it did 10 years ago. It might not look on the statistics sheet like it did even five years ago. But his fingerprints are all over the game every game, whether that’s in the room talking to the guy who is down a little bit and bounces back, whether it’s with our young players and having them prepared for a Game 7 and what to expect.”

DeBoer pointed out how Pavelski made a play in front of the net to set up forward Matt Duchene’s double-OT goal in Dallas’ 2-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 6 of the second round. Pavelski has three assists in the playoffs.

“There’s not another guy come this time of year that I’ve coached that I would want on my team,” DeBoer said. “He’s still got enough left in the tank here that I’m confident he’s not done yet putting his fingerprints on our games going forward.”