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In moving forward with Stars, Pavelski looking back at where he's been

From Plover, Wisconsin roots to becoming 'Captain America,' the veteran forward is a tapestry of all his memories

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Nate Pavelski is getting plenty of great memories this season.

The 9-year-old son of Joe Pavelski was on the ice at Cotton Bowl Stadium Tuesday skating with his family and friends before the Winter Classic. On Thursday, he was able to get on the ice after practice in full uniform with Stars players, laughing while trying to score a goal in a scramble game. And on Friday, he was the Stars' junior starter of the game, standing on the ice for the National Anthem and then helping hold the silver stick that was presented to his dad for playing in his 1,000th career regular season game in December.

It was a pretty neat week in retrospect.

"We've had some pretty cool moments," Joe Pavelski said. "Now that he's 9, he understands a lot of it. He's calling guys by their nicknames and has fun. He's definitely feeling comfortable, and everyone has just made our transition easy as far as feeling welcome and feeling at home."

Joe Pavelski deserves a ton of accolades. He has worked himself out of Plover, Wisconsin to become a high school state champion, a USHL Clark Cup Champion, and an NCAA Division I men's hockey champion at the University of Wisconsin. He helped Team USA win a silver medal at the 2010 Olympic Games and he is one of the greatest San Jose Sharks players of all time.

Video: DET@DAL: Stars salute Pavelski for 1,000 NHL games

In truth, that's what the silver stick really represents -- past accomplishments that were borne of hard work and dedication.

But this past week … well, that might best represent the future.

When the Sharks found themselves pushing up hard against the salary cap, they were forced to allow Pavelski to look elsewhere. The 35-year-old became a free agent and decided he had more than just a year left in his career. He signed a three-year deal with the Stars that averages $7 million a season, and started the transition to finding out what hockey was like after the Sharks.

It wasn't easy. Pavelski had a goal and an assist through the first nine games and the team was 1-7-1. Talk about your slow starts.

"For us, myself and this group, we struggled early and we didn't win games, and at the end of the day it's all about winning games," Pavelski said. "But we stuck together and we really found our identity. Now, we're finding out who we are."

Video: DET@DAL: Pavelski on 'fun night' in Stars' victory

Who they are is a diverse group that needs contributions from everyone. They need top players like Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov clicking. They need younger players like Roope Hintz, Miro Heiskanen and Denis Gurianov contributing. And they need wily veterans like Blake Comeau, Andrew Cogliano and Pavelski helping guide the ship.

On paper, it can be a pretty special group. On the ice, it can be pretty fun.

The spotlight was on Pavelski Friday, with video memories from old teammates like Joe Thornton, Brent Burns and Patrick Marleau. His mom and dad and wife and son were on the ice for the silver stick presentation. You could feel the emotion of it all.

"Seeing old teammates and different teammates send little messages, it's a fun night," Pavelski said. "It's on your mind a little bit more than you think it would be. It was just a fun day all around, and awesome to have a lot of friends and family here today to share it with."

Of course, Pavelski rose to the occasion. He had a goal and an assist and also had a goal disallowed that maybe should have counted. He's up to eight goals and 10 assists on the season, and he's looking like a player who could help this team a good deal should it reach the playoffs. He definitely seems to have a knack for big games.

Video: DET@DAL: Pavelski steals puck and scores

"Playing a thousand games talks about skill and ability, but it also talks about character," Stars interim coach Rick Bowness said. "It was a great honor for him tonight and he responded with an excellent game."

While fans want to draw a line in the sand on how they view a player, Pavelski is a tapestry of all of his memories. He's the kid from Wisconsin who loves Team USA and had a ton of fun with his teammates in San Jose. He's also the dad who is finding some great new memories with his son in Dallas.

So the timing seems perfect that the Stars will head out on a West Coast road trip next week with Pavelski scheduled to play for the first time as a visitor in San Jose on Jan. 11.

"It's not an easy switch to flip when you come from one team that you've been with for so long to another team. It's a lot easier said than done," Bowness said. "It doesn't happen overnight, but he's feeling more and more comfortable here and he's a big part of our hockey club."

Seeing the smiles on the faces of his family Friday seemed to indicate just that.

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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