December 13, 2019

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It took a while, but Pavelski, Perry starting to shine with Stars

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh</p><p>Joe Pavelski, left, and teammate Corey Perry both signed with the Dallas Stars in the off-season as free agents.</p>

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Joe Pavelski, left, and teammate Corey Perry both signed with the Dallas Stars in the off-season as free agents.

DALLAS – When you've played nearly 1,000 games for one NHL franchise and then start fresh with another, there's bound to be an acclimation period.

That holds true for both Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry.

The veteran forwards were signed during the off-season to beef up the Stars' offensive attack, with the Central Division squad gunning for a better finish than the second round of the playoffs. After a slow start by the 30-somethings – and the entire Dallas contingent – Pavelski and Perry are feeling comfortable in their new surroundings and have been factors in the team's sensational 13-game run.

"They've been huge for us. Their character in the room and what they bring to the table. Their resumes speak for themselves," centre Tyler Seguin, an unabashed fan of his still relatively new teammates, said Thursday following the game-day morning skate prior to the Stars' tilt with the Winnipeg Jets at American Airlines Center. "Joe's been a captain and a leader for a long time and has come close with San Jose many times to winning. Corey's got the best hockey resume of you can possibly have, one all of us dream of.

"These are guys you listen to, new voices, great guys in the room. They make big plays and they know to respond in key moments in games."

Pavelski, inked July 1 to a three-year deal with a $7-million annual cap hit, spent his entire 13-year career with the Sharks before joining head coach Jim Montgomery's group in the Lone Star State. He wore the 'C' and suited up for 963 games in San Jose, recording at least 61 points in each of the past eight full NHL seasons and leading the team with 38 goals a year ago.

He didn't dazzle initially, mustering just a goal and an assist through nine games but has picked up the pace, contributing four goals and six helpers in his last 13 contests prior to Thursday – during a red-hot 11-1-1 run for Dallas. Pavelski said the transition to a new organization, on and off the ice, was tougher than he'd anticipated but is feeling right at home now.

"It was disappointing to leave San Jose because I invested a lot of myself there but then you're excited coming to a new group and you finally get going. The start was obviously tough," he said. "The hardest part was the losing early (1-7-1 through nine games). Every year you want to make an immediate impact. The start of the season you want to get off to a good start and nobody really did in this room, so that kind of spoiled things.

"But the guys stuck together and we battled and wanted to fix it, and we've been on a good run since. It's been great to see the guys rally."

The Stars finished last season tied as the NHL's third-most anemic offence, averaging just 2.55 goals per game, with so much of a reliance on Seguin, forwards Jamie Benn and Roope Hintz and blue-liners John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen. Pavelski and Perry were brought in to add some secondary scoring punch, although the boost to the offence (now 2.77 goals per game) is still a work in progress. Hintz and Klingberg are out with lower-body injuries, making matters more difficult.

Pavelski, who centres a second line of Alexander Radulov and Denis Gurianov, turned 35 in the summer while he recovered from head injuries sustained in the playoffs.

The product of Plover, Wis., who had 360 career goals and 413 assists prior to the Stars' matchup with Winnipeg, missed the playoffs just two times with the Sharks and lost in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016.

The ache of not getting it done in San Jose persists but has lessened with time.

"When you set out to do something and you believe you have the right people to do it, there's a sour taste that sticks when it doesn't happen," said Pavelski. "But I'm proud of what we did over the body of work over there. We did a lot of good and we had a lot of opportunities but, unfortunately, it didn't happen for us. Just a lot of good, exciting runs, played a lot of meaningful hockey."

Perry, 34, spent 14 years in Anaheim, posting 372 goals and 776 total points over 988 games, before signing a contract July 1 with Dallas worth $1.5 million. (It also includes an additional $1.75 million in performance-based bonuses). He's a member of the 'Triple Goal Club', winning a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007, Olympic gold medals (2010 and 2014) and a world championship gold (2016). He also won the Rocket Richard Trophy and Hart Trophy (league MVP) in 2010 after scoring 50 goals.

While filling a leadership role on the fourth line, he believes there's still plenty of fuel left in the tank.

"I think change is a good thing to revive my career, and I know there's still a lot of good hockey left in me," said Perry, who played his 1,000th game Nov. 13 against the Flames in Calgary. On Tuesday, he had two-points in a big 6-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks and is up to three goals and three helpers in 15 games for the Stars. "It wasn't easy leaving Anaheim but I've blocked that out and focused on the new team, the new season.

"I don't set goals. My philosophy is go out and be a professional and give it your all, whether it's practice, working out in the gym or in a game. You want to be that guy that never left anything on the ice."

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

Read full biography

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History

Updated on Thursday, November 21, 2019 at 5:28 PM CST: Updates headline

11:12 PM: Updates story.

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