SAN JOSE – Not even the head coach could keep Joe Pavelski away from his teammates for very long.
After Pete DeBoer indicated that the captain would get a nice break from the ice after competing for Team USA at the World Cup, Pavelski was a bit of surprise participant in Tuesday’s morning skate, getting on the ice for about an hour. He won’t play in the preseason opener, nor will Joonas Donskoi, who also returned after his run with Team Finland.
Pavelski, who served as captain of the American team for the first time, enjoyed his experience in Toronto, even though his team was profoundly embarrassed with three straight regulation defeats.
“Good experience, it really was,” he said. “Results aside, it was a fun group. Those kinds of events are special to play in, especially to represent your country.”
“At the end of the day you want better results, for sure.”
The criticism of the American team wasn’t targeted towards the players as much as it was towards general manager Dean Lombardi and head coach John Tortorella. Lombardi strangely assembled a club that was short on speed and skill, leaving off players like Phil Kessel, Bobby Ryan, Tyler Johnson and Kevin Shattenkirk. Tortorella, meanwhile, didn’t seem to have any sort of clue as to how to utilize the guys he had.
Pavelski, who has represented his country four times now, said, “there’s something that probably has to be done” in regards to Team USA’s approach for a potential Olympic appearance in 2018 (the league has yet to sign off on NHL players participating).
“I’m not going to say nothing needs to be changed, because we obviously didn’t perform up to standards,” said Pavelski, who had one goal and one assist in three games. “But, that’s on every individual that was there. We all need to be a little bit better.”
Now, though, Pavelski will quickly turn his attention to San Jose, and trying to return to the Stanley Cup Final. The six-game loss to the Penguins in June is still in his mind.
“I don’t know if you ever get over it,” he said. “It still is with you. But, you try to learn from it. … It’s a new season. You definitely owe it to your teammates to be ready, owe it to the new guys that came in to be as good as you were the previous year and try to get better.”
According to DeBoer, the plan for Pavelski is to err on the side of not rushing him back. While Pavelski may already be close to game shape, the coach would like to see him – and presumably the other Sharks that played or are still playing in the World Cup – concentrate their time more in the weight room.
The balance will be trying to keep the legs and the lungs fresh while adding some more muscle.
“They’ve missed their traditional gym time, the time in the summer where they built muscle and packed on the type of muscle they need to get them through a long, hard season,” DeBoer said.
If Pavelski wants to practice, though, DeBoer isn’t going to stop him.
“Tough to keep him away. You want him to take some time off here and make sure he’s rested, but [he] wants to be around,” DeBoer said. “That’s what makes him special.”