It’s always nice seeing players return from the injured list, but for some reason the return of Joe Pavelski stirred a little more excitement than usual.
“Little Joe’s” two assists in the first game of the year against Colorado sparked some serious buzz around the production capabilities of the Sharks second line, but his unexpected absence created an irreplaceable void.
As it turns out, Pavelski would only be the starting domino for an early laundry list of injured stars, leaving fans to only speculate the true potential of the Sharks' top lines.
Patrick Marleau’s random mixture of linemates over the past 18 games hasn't necessarily hindered his line’s production, but Pavelski’s return brings a potential spark that no other forward combination could.
Pavelski’s steady increase in goals and assists over the past three years creates a comforting blanket of security when thinking about who is helping get the puck to and shooting the puck from Marleau.
In his first game back, “Joe Pa” wasted zero time reminding fans why they fell in love with the young prospect from the University of Wisconsin in the first place.
Todd McLellan did not hesitate in getting Pavelski back into the speed of things, making sure he got on the ice early and often.
Joe racked up over four minutes of ice time in the first period and over 13 minutes throughout the entire game. But more importantly, during his fifth shift, he perfectly deflected a puck past the Penguins goalie, Marc-Andre Fluery on the power play for his first goal of the year.
Pavelski wasn't done making an immediate impact in what felt like his second season opener.
Early in the second period, Pavelski found some open ice in the slot where Joe Thornton dished him the puck for a solid shot. “Pavs” then did what he does best. He crashed the net after his shot and did everything possible to try and hammer a rebound home.
Although Dany Heatley would get credit for the goal, the force put on the puck by Pavelski would probably have been enough to cross the plain.
Either way, a two point game was the perfect way to announce to the HP Pavilion and fans all over the Bay that Joe Pavelski is back and fully healed.
The vicious Thornton/Heatley line backed by the true grit Pavelski/Marleau line rivals the best top pairings in the NHL. Pavelski also makes the Sharks power play a two headed monster that even the strongest goalies will have their hands full with.
With McLellan marching out a Heatley/Thornton/Marleau line on the extra man attack, the second line seemed to drop off quite dramatically with Pavelski on the rack. The return of Joe creates a legit anchor on the second power play line that can handle the puck and create a surplus of chances with any wingmen.
His actions spoke from themselves in his first game back on the special teams line.
Pavelski saw over three minutes of solid power play ice time against the Penguins and was on the ice for both of the Sharks’ power play goals.
Being robbed of Pavelski so early in the season made it easy to forget just what this scrappy little player brings to the table. But in just one game, Joe did everything he possible could to re-wow the Bay Area and suggested to them that this Sharks team could be much more talented than even their die hard hearts can imagine.