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'Excited' for San Jose reunion, Pavelski sees bright future with Stars

Former Sharks captain returns to his home of 13 years with plenty of memories -- and even more to look forward to

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- It was 2001 when an aging superstar by the name of Brett Hull left the Stars and joined the Detroit Red Wings.

Hull was put on a line with two promising young forwards by the names of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and they succeeded so well they were given the nickname "Two Kids and an Old Goat." So if we're seeing a rebirth of that concept on the Stars with Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov, could Pavelski be the old goat?

"I don't think so," Pavelski said with a bit of a defiant smile.

As Pavelski returns to face his old team Saturday, a lot of water has gone underneath the bridge. He played 963 games in 13 seasons with the Sharks and sits second all-time in goals scored and third all-time in points. So at age 35, Pavelski will be surrounded by amazing memories and good friends as the Shark Tank turns into a time machine for one night.

But, just as important, he knows there is plenty of good ahead with the Stars.

 

[GAME DAY GUIDE: What you need to know before Stars face Sharks in San Jose]

 

"Overall, it's been as smooth as it could possibly be," Pavelski said of the transition to Dallas after he was allowed to become a free agent last summer. "The move to get there and getting the family adjusted with schools, and everything that goes on with that, was really good. The hockey side was the easy side. You show up and have a great group of guys in that locker room. It's been fun to get to know them and compete with them."

Pavelski was the captain in San Jose and the team went to the Western Conference finals last season, so he understands the dynamics of a winning team. He said he's getting that feeling with the Stars.

"The guys have been good," he said. "The guys play a pretty honest game out there and the room is a pretty honest room, as far as competing and showing up every night."

Of course, playing with two young speedsters doesn't hurt. Hintz was a second-round pick in 2015 and broke through last season. He currently leads the Stars with 15 goals. Gurianov was Dallas' first-round pick in 2015 and has taken an extra year to step up. But after getting a chance to be a regular this season, he has 10 goals (including six in the past 15 games).

"They've been fun to play with, a lot of speed," Pavelski said. "There are nights when you get the puck and these two are just flying. They've been playing good quality hockey and using their strengths."

Video: Pavelski reflects on time in San Jose

As it has been with many of the forwards, that line has stayed together more with the switch to Rick Bowness as interim head coach. Hintz and Gurianov have chemistry from their time together in the AHL, and Pavelski seems to be able to read off of the natural chemistry of his two linemates.

"They've got a lot of speed those two kids, and Pavs has been great on the bench with them and he talks to them on the ice, and he knows how to play the game the right way. He's helping them with a lot," Bowness said. "The big thing with those two guys is we're just encouraging them to keep skating. When they're coming at you, you're on your heels, you're backed up. So it's working right now and we're expecting it will continue."

Pavelski said he always thought he would be able to stay in San Jose, and it will be emotional Saturday when he looks across the ice and sees players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, with which he has played most of his career. Marleau will be playing in his 1,700th regular season game, so there are plenty of memories to go around.

Coincidentally, Corey Perry and Andrew Cogliano both returned to Anaheim on Thursday, where they were feted by the Ducks with video board salutes and standing ovations from the fans. That prepared Pavelski for what might be coming.

"I'm excited to be back here, see all of the faces and be back in the building," Pavelski said. "In Anaheim, you could see it with Cogliano and Perry, you could see how much a place means to a player when they play there. I would expect something similar to that."


And when that game is over, the Stars will move on to play a huge divisional game at Colorado on Tuesday, and Pavelski will take another step forward with his new team.

If Stars fans are lucky, they might be able to call Pavelski the "Old Goat" on that line for several years going forward.

"Roope and Denis are going to keep getting better, they are," Bowness said. "The more they play, the more experience they gain, the more confidence they gain, they're going to keep getting better."

And even at his age, the same can be said about Pavelski in Dallas.

"This was a place where you know tendencies of teammates, you know the comfort levels," Pavelski said as he reminisced about his time in San Jose. "And I think I'm starting to get that in Dallas."

 

Stars (26-14-4) at Sharks (20-22-4)

Saturday, 9:30 p.m. CT

Where: SAP Center

TV: FOX Sports Southwest PLUS; ESPN+

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the Buffalo Sabres when they return home to American Airlines Center on Thursday, Jan. 16 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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