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'It just takes time': Pavelski working to get past slow start with Stars

With just one assist and four shots on goal through four games, Dallas' big offseason signing knows more production is coming

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

The Adaptation of Joe Pavelski sounds like a mini-series Stars fans could fall in love with this season.

But like most of these things, it's off to a slow start.

Pavelski played the first 13 seasons of his career with the San Jose Sharks. He logged 965 games in teal, but when the Sharks got in a cap crunch in the summer, they let Pavelski become a free agent. The 35-year-old forward signed with the Stars for three seasons at an average cap hit of $7 million per year, and he automatically became a huge part of this team's push for a Stanley Cup.

 

[OFFICIAL STARS PODCAST: Razor, Heika check in from nation's capital with all-new episode]

 

With the hyper drive on 11 heading into the season, expectations were maxed out. And when Pavelski has just one assist and four shots on goal through four games, there is room for concern. But when you consider just how big a change Pavelski and his teammates are going through, patience seems to be the best plan.

"It just takes time," said Stars coach Jim Montgomery. "It's the nuances of the game, getting to know people, the comfort level of understanding when this guy has the puck, if I go here, I'm going to get the puck. That just takes time."

Video: Stars pick up first win of season in Washington

And Pavelski probably knows that as well as anybody. A smart, methodical player, he gains advantages by understanding his opponents and understanding his teammates. He finds little spots on the ice where he can get his stick free to tip shots on goal. He finds creases in traffic so he can maneuver in and out of players to get to rebounds. He finds a way to get that extra inch we hear so much about in sports.

And that takes time.

"There's definitely some things you're getting used to, and finding certain routines, and just getting used to the day-to-day," Pavelski said. "But it's good. It's good to get the season going; travel a little bit, spend some time on the road and just try to keep building every day."

Pavelski was able to bond with his teammates on a three-game road trip to St. Louis, Detroit and Washington, D.C. He'll be at home for two games and then head back out on a four-game roadie on Sunday. But as much as that's helpful, the real key is getting time on the ice.

Montgomery is shuffling his lines after losing Jason Dickinson and Blake Comeau to injuries. He'll have to shuffle more when Corey Perry recovers from a fractured bone in his foot (he's skating now) and the coach clearly is seeking chemistry with his top scorers.


On Tuesday, Montgomery put together Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov, and then had Pavelski on a line with Roope Hintz and Mattias Janmark. The second-year head coach said he liked what he saw in that second line.

"I really like their line right now," Montgomery said. "I think if you look at Joe Pavelski's career, he's always done well playing with a real smart, puck possession guy like Joe Thornton. So, Roope Hintz and Janmark are both really good possession guys that can hang onto pucks, and Joe's so smart he fills in the holes. I'm excited to watch that line develop."

Pavelski understands that he might have to be flexible, but experience has taught him that being flexible is a lot easier when you're playing with passion.

"There's a lot of simple adjustments, but the main thing with that is make sure you're going hard, make sure you're working, battling," he said. "You win a one-on-one battle, and some of those things just kind of take care of themselves naturally."

Pavelski and his teammates went through a grinder Tuesday, testing themselves emotionally and coming back to win a 4-3 game in overtime against the Capitals. So it's clear that Pavelski isn't the only one going through some changes. The 2019-20 Stars also have to find out who they are as a team.

Video: Seguin's OT winner lifts Stars past Capitals, 4-3

During this road trip, Montgomery challenged his leaders and said he liked what he saw from Pavelski, who served as captain of the Sharks for the past four seasons.

"Joe's smart," Montgomery said. "He knows he's got to get to know the room and everything, but (against Detroit) when we fell down 3-2, he was walking along the bench saying, 'We're fine here. We're OK.' Natural leadership skills he has in abundance, and we're going to encourage him to do as much as he wants, and I know that our captains are also encouraging him."

That's also a part of the mini-series, which the team is hoping will go beyond the normal 82 episodes. In the meantime, the talented forward is working to increase his scoring and help the team rack up a few wins right now.

"That's the goal," Pavelski said. "I'm sure I'm caught a little bit, it's not completely natural. But it's at a good spot where I feel it's right there -- right around the corner.

"If you get a little production, you get that confidence."

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.

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