SAN JOSE – Sharks captain Joe Pavelski may not be quite ready to return to game action just yet, but a return could definitely be coming in the near future.
Pavelski skated on Wednesday morning ahead of the rest of the team's practice and will accompany the Sharks on their two-game trip down to Southern California. While it isn't likely he'll play in the first game against the LA Kings, he said he feels better every day.
"If I had to go, I'd find a way," Pavelski told the media after Wednesday's skate, adding he wants to be careful not to return too soon. "Just be a little cautious and go from there."
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer doubled-down on the importance of getting Pavelski healthy.
"You don't want to rush things unless you have to," he said. "We're going to do what's right and make sure he's back full-time."
Pavelski missed the Sharks' previous game against the Vegas Golden Knights with a lower-body injury -- which he thinks he sustained after an awkward fall in Saturday's game against the Nashville Predators. Monday's absence marked the first time in eight years the Plover, Wisc., native has had to miss any game due to injury.
"It was a nice run obviously of good health and playing through a few issues along the way," he said. "Hopefully we can go another eight years."
Of course, San Jose is eager to have its captain and leading goal-scorer back in the lineup, not just because of what he adds to the Sharks on the ice, but how he leads off the ice as well. Even Gustav Nyquist, who has only played with the Sharks for a handful of games, can see the impact Pavelski has on the team.
"Great guy on and off the ice, and a role model for a lot of the younger guys in this room," No. 14 said. "We're lucky to have him."
Whether Pavelski returns on the road trip or not, the Sharks have to find a way to get back into the win column – and getting back on track against a lowly team like the Kings is ideal. LA is the second-worst team in the entire league, putting up the second fewest goals per game. Their special teams are also pretty dismal with their penalty kill sitting at 29th overall in the league. (Which makes them a great team for the Sharks to face as they try to get their power play going again.)
But while the Sharks no doubt want Pavelski back in the lineup as they try to turn things around, they also want him in tip-top shape for their upcoming playoff run. Having him healthy is key.
"One thing that always sticks out is good health for teams that win," Pavelski said. "Especially at the crucial times, it's nice to be healthy."