Pavelski returns for Sharks’ Game 7 vs. Avs

Joe Pavelski‘s devastating, frightening, and tide-turning injury happened during that unforgettable Game 7 against the Golden Knights in Round 1. It’s honestly remarkable that he’s returning one round later, as the Sharks’ courageous captain is suiting up for San Jose in Game 7 against the Colorado Avalanche in Round 2 on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN; stream here).

Hockey players have trained us to marvel at improbable comebacks, so far some, this almost feels like old hat. Then you remember the horrifying sight of Pavelski bleeding from his head stemming from that awkward fall after a hit by Cody Eakin and then Paul Stastny, and you realize just how brave Pavelski is. Especially since he also had a goal scored off of his mouth not that long ago, too.

At this time of year, it’s fair to wonder if Pavelski will be at full-strength. People sometimes forget that this isn’t always just a matter of toughness; a team must also make the difficult judgment call regarding whether that player isn’t so battered and bruised as to be a detriment on the ice. The Sharks clearly believe that Pavelski can make enough of a net positive than any physical limitations are worth the trouble.

It looks like Pavelski might line up with Evander Kane and Tomas Hertl, at least if warm-ups are correct. The Sharks have plenty of different options if they want to go with fresh looks, including putting Pavelski back with his old pal Joe Thornton.

The Sharks aren’t the only team with key players at less than 100 percent. Mikko Rantanen seemed to struggle after a hard hit by Brent Burns in Game 6. While Rantanen returned  to the eventual Colorado win, he didn’t really look totally mobile.

That’s the thing about the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s a battle of attrition, and Pavelski’s jumping back into it with the stakes at their highest.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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