SAN JOSE — Sharks captain Joe Pavelski returned to the lineup for Game 7 of San Jose’s second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night, his first action since suffering a gruesome head injury on April 23 against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Pavelski made a quick impact, scoring at the 5:57 mark in the first period to give the Sharks a 1-0 lead. He also assisted on Tomas Hertl‘s goal at the 11:35 mark in the first.
The 34-year-old center had 38 goals and 26 assists in 75 regular-season games for San Jose. In 128 career playoff games, he has 46 goals and 49 assists, including two goals and two assists in his seven games this postseason.
Pavelski was injured in Game 7 against the Golden Knights. After a cross-check from Vegas forward Cody Eakin, Pavelski collided with Knights forward Paul Stastny and fell head-first to the ice. Pavelski was motionless for a moment, bleeding profusely through the top of his helmet, having suffered a “pressure cut.” His teammates helped him skate off to the trainers’ room, with teammate Joe Thornton pressing a towel against his head.
Pavelski said he suffered concussion-like symptoms that night and into the next day.
The Sharks were cautious with Pavelski in his return from injury. He started skating on his own around Game 4, and then traveled with the team to Denver for Game 6, practicing with them for the first time since the previous round.
“As gruesome as it was, I think he’s a tough guy,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “The nature of the injury, no one’s going to rush that, particularly him. But those kinds of injuries are so unpredictable. You can have an injury like that and miss months, or have one and be back in a week. The symptoms weren’t as bad as the result looked.”
The Sharks have used Pavelski for motivation during their playoff run. In Game 7 against Vegas, they scored four goals on the controversial five-minute major penalty to Eakin to erase a 3-0 deficit, and then won the game in overtime. Pavelski has been around their locker room during the series against Colorado, and made an unexpected appearance to a thundering ovation during Game 5 at the Shark Tank.
“We’re trying to win as many games as we can so we can see him back out on the ice again,” Thornton said earlier this round.