Joe Pavelski played in his 1,300th career regular season game in Buffalo earlier this week. He will turn 40 later this year (July 11). He continues to thrive late in his career, and the key, it seems, is love of the game.
First Shift: Dallas looks to end trip on high note in Montreal matinee
After splitting the first two games of the three-game trip, the Stars look to knock off the Canadiens before heading home
“I just really enjoy playing,” Pavelski said.
The versatile forward currently ranks fourth on the team with 44 points (19 goals, 25 assists) in 51 games and is helping Dallas to one of the better records in the NHL. Stars coach Pete DeBoer has coached Pavelski both in San Jose and Dallas, and said the veteran is just a special individual.
“He’s a unique athlete,” DeBoer said. “I’ve coached some great players late in their careers – Joe Thornton, Jaromir Jagr, Joe Pavelski, Marty Brodeur - those guys all have one thing in common, they love everything about the game. They love practicing, they love coming to the rink, they love traveling. Otherwise, you don’t do it, you retire and go sit on a beach somewhere. You have to be a great player, too, but that’s the thing that separates them.”
Pavelski is in his fifth season with the Stars and he has three of the top five points per game totals in his 18-year NHL career while playing in Dallas. Even his 0.86 points per game this season ranks eight on his all-time list. It’s impressive that he continues to get more production as he gets older.
“I’m very lucky,” Pavelski said. “I haven’t had any major injuries. I kind of have had good summers. If there is any one thing, it’s being able to think about the game - hockey smarts. There are some nights when you’ve got to survive out there. As you can use teammates and play the game and get around certain areas, that’s one area that helps you play a little longer.”
Pavelski has played a good deal with Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson, and that has helped. While DeBoer has scrambled things in recent games – putting Pavelski with Jamie Benn and Sam Steel and putting Wyatt Johnston on the top line with Hintz and Robertson – it appears the normal lines could return Saturday against Montréal.
“You need help,” Pavelski said. “You need five pieces. Coming here, I’m just playing with great players. They can skate, they make a lot of great plays. You see their skill, you see their confidence and it reminds you that you can go do that. You want to try to keep up with them.”
DeBoer was asked on Friday if he thinks Pavelski will eventually be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and he said yes.
“I can’t imagine that he doesn’t end up in the Hall of Fame,” DeBoer said. “His playoff stats alone, where he is on the US goal-scoring list of all-time – and clutch goals at the toughest time of the year.”
Pavelski ranks eighth all-time in regular season points (1,045) and fourth all-time in playoff points (139) among U.S. players.
“Those are hard games where he produced on a consistent basis,” DeBoer said. “For me, he’s a sure thing, but I don’t get to vote.”
Montréal ranks 31st in shot differential at minus 6.1 per game. The Canadiens rank 27th in shots on goal per game at 28.0 and 30th in shots against per game at 34.1
The Stars have allowed eight power play goals against in their past 13 kill opportunities. Dallas has slipped from third in the league in penalty kill success at 84.9 percent to 13th at 81.1 percent.
Dallas ranks third in scoring at 3.67 goals per game. Montréal ranks 27th in goals against at 3.46 goals per game.
He Said It
“That’s always an option. We’ve got guys who have a history together, we’ve got depth, we can move guys in and out of the lineup. So we’re going to try to use all of those things to try to find a way to win games.”
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.