It has now been just over a year since Sharks center Joe Pavelski made his NHL debut, but a lot has changed. That career changing event occurred on Nov. 22, 2006 against the Los Angeles Kings and Pavelski topped the night off by scoring his first NHL goal that same night off Mathieu Garon.
“It was all kind of a blur, but it was awesome,” said Pavelski.
For the Plover, Wisc. native, it was impressive that he was even in San Jose as many first-year pros spend a season in the American Hockey League before making the big jump. Pavelski not only made the move, but stayed after just 16 games in Worcester where he scored 28 points in just 16 contests.
To make his first NHL game, Pavelski had one amazing travel day, getting an early morning ride to the Boston airport, and then flying cross-country to play a game that night.
“I tried to sleep a little on the flight,” said Pavelski of the long, but memorable day. “I was pretty excited.”
One year into his NHL development, Pavelski clearly notices the differences between his NHL debut and what he does now.
“I’ve been here one year and been exposed to so much,” said Pavelski. “I’m doing the little things better. I have to keep learning.”
For a centerman like Pavelski, the little things include winning faceoffs, a small portion of running time, but a huge factor in determining possession.
“I’m a lot better in faceoffs,” said Pavelski. “I struggled with them the first year.”
In the NHL, Pavelski doesn’t simply go in unprepared to beat his man, but does homework to be ready for possible opponents each night, much in the same way a baseball pitcher prepares for the opposing lineup.
“Some guys in the league are better than others and you have to know their moves and counteract them,” said Pavelski.
Another area that caught Pavelski off guard when he first arrived was the speed in the NHL.
“You battle with the speed every night,” said Pavelski. “Everyone can skate.”
When there was something that needed to be adjusted in college, he had plenty of practice time to fix it.
“In college, you play two times a week and here it can be three to four,” said Pavelski. “In college, you have a whole week to prepare.”
While there is much less preparation time, Pavelski has adapted nicely to the NHL style.
CHEECHOO UPDATE Jonathan Cheechoo strained his groin Saturday night against Buffalo and did not practice on Monday.
“I was battling in the corner and lost my footing,” said Cheechoo.
Cheechoo and Jeremy Roenick (knee) were placed on the injured reserved list and Marcel Goc came off the IR.
HOLIDAY SHOPPING The Sharks had their annual team Christmas party on Sunday and will play hosts to a party Wednesday night at Sharks Ice at San Jose for underprivileged families. Dinner, ice skating and presents will be provided by the players, Sharks staff and sponsors.
“The shopping is all done,” said Sandis Ozolinsh. “I didn’t do it. My wife did. She is way better at that than me.”
As for his personal Christmas shopping, Ozolinsh is well set in American culture.
“It’s a tradition, I wait for the last minute,” said Ozolinsh.
ROOTING FOR RIVALS Normally, Sharks players and front office staffs will cheer for the other local teams, but Sharks fans will have to excuse Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson this week. Although Stanford and Cal are playing in the NCAA Volleyball Final Four in Sacramento this week, his youngest daughter is a member of USC’s team.
NEXT GAME The Sharks will play Minnesota Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be available on FSN Plus, 98.5 KFOX and SJSHARKS.com.