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'Feeling better,' Pavelski eager for return to Stars' lineup

Veteran forward was on a five-game point streak before being sidelined by an upper-body injury

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Stars (33-19-5) at Canadiens (27-26-7)

6 p.m., Bell Centre

TV: FOX Sports Southwest

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

 

MONTREAL -- Joe Pavelski was just getting warmed up.

The 35-year-old forward was on a five-game point streak before he had to sit out with an upper-body injury for two games. Pavelski had four goals and two assists in the run, and really looked as comfortable as he has since joining the Stars as a free agent in the summer.

 

[GAME DAY GUIDE: Everything you need to know before Stars face Canadiens]

 

"He was helping the power play a lot, he was chipping in offensively, and more importantly, I think he was feeling comfortable with his game," said Stars interim coach Rick Bowness, who said Pavelski is a game-time decision tonight. "Regardless of the goals, he was feeling comfortable with his overall game. We've missed him the last couple of games."

Pavelski is second on the Stars in ice time for forwards at 17:17. He is a key to the power play and offers the ability to create offense with several different forwards. He's played beside Alexander Radulov, Denis Gurianov, Mattias Janmark or Roope Hintz in recent games and is expected to be on a line with Janmark and rookie Jason Robertson to start tonight's game against Montreal.

Pavelski said he's excited to get back on the ice after two games off.

Video: Pavelski a game-time decision against Montreal

"I'm feeling better," he said. "If you can be somewhat natural out on the ice and use your instincts out there (in practice), it feels really good that way. Everything has been good, everything has responded well."

Pavelski, who has a history of deflecting pucks and cleaning up in front of the net on the power play, has started to establish more chemistry with John Klingberg and seems to be reading off of his other teammates, as well. Pavelski is behind his normal scoring pace as he has 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in 55 games, but he also knows those numbers can improve quickly. In the nine games since the All-Star break, the Stars are averaging 3.2 goals per game.

"Since the break, we've used each other a lot better and our game seems like it's sped up and the execution has been there," Pavelski said. "We're on a good little run right now. Everything is starting to turn around a little bit."

Pavelski played 13 seasons with the San Jose Sharks, so there was expected to be a transition period with the Stars. He said he feels like he's starting to fit in with his new team.

"I think this group has some great character," he said. "Guys like to compete and work hard. We're ready to find a way to win, whether we go down a goal or whether we've got the lead. We've been a patient team, we work hard and we're solid in all three zones."

 

Bowness: Robertson to see more time on power play

Jason Robertson, who made his NHL debut and tallied an assist Thursday in Toronto, is expected to get his second game tonight. Robertson, 20, logged 12:18 in his debut, including 2:12 on the power play.

"He'll see more time on the power play," Bowness said. "He's an offensive player, we're not bringing him in here to check. We're bringing him to add some offense, and he'll be given every opportunity to do that."

Robertson made a smart play to help set up Tyler Seguin's goal. He made a good read, skated the puck in and pushed a shot at the net. Mattias Janmark tipped it, and the puck slipped out to Seguin for a juicy rebound shot.

Video: Robertson discusses 'unreal' first point in NHL debut

"That's poise with the puck," Bowness said. "He saw that, he didn't panic, the opening was there, and he put it down by the net."

Robertson said it was surreal playing in Toronto against the Maple Leafs and it will be just as exciting playing in Montreal against the Canadiens.

"It's a little overwhelming," Robertson said. "But the older guys take care of me, kind of calm my nerves. The coaching staff, too. They just said to play my game and keep it simple."

 

Sekera to re-enter lineup for Polak

With Pavelski coming in, Janmark will move from center to left wing and Joel Kiviranta will likely come out of the lineup.

Andrej Sekera will come in on defense for Roman Polak. The rotation has been interesting, as Polak played 18:25 last game and will be a healthy scratch tonight.

Ben Bishop is back in net. Bishop is 13-4-4 in his career against the Canadiens with a 1.75 GAA and .937 save percentage.

Video: Stars looking to keep it rolling in Montreal

 

By the numbers
300

Jamie Benn is one goal shy of hitting 300 for his career. He ranks fourth all-time in franchise history in goal scoring behind Mike Modano (557), Brian Bellows (342) and Dino Ciccarelli (332). Benn has four goals in his past three games.

 

15

Pavelski has 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in his past 11 games against Montreal.

 

34.3

The Canadiens rank second in the NHL in average shots on goal per game at 34.3. Dallas ranks 23rd at 30.5.

 

He said it

"I just don't have to answer any more questions about him not scoring for that long…Listen, there's a big weight off his shoulders. We're just very happy for him and hey, we got the two points. He'll be more excited about the two points than the goal."

-- Bowness on Seguin breaking a career-long 17-game goal drought by scoring Thursday at Toronto

 

Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Jason Dickinson - Denis Gurianov

Roope Hintz - Tyler Seguin - Corey Perry

Mattias Janmark - Joe Pavelski - Jason Robertson

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Miro Heiskanen - Stephen Johns

Jamie Oleksiak - Andrej Sekera

Ben Bishop

Anton Khudobin

Scratched: D Roman Polak, LW Joel Kiviranta

Injured: C Justin Dowling (lower body), RW Alexander Radulov (upper body), C Martin Hanzal (back)

Join the Stars for Hockey Is For Everyone Night when they return home to take on the Arizona Coyotes at American Airlines Center on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m. Get your tickets now!

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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