San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski is doubtful for Friday night's Game 1 against the Colorado Avalanche after suffering a gruesome head injury on a controversial play in the third period of the Game 7 win over the Vegas Golden Knights.
"I saw him this morning. He's OK. I mean, I would term him day-to-day. I don't think he's going to play [in Game 1]," said San Jose coach Pete DeBoer.
Pavelski had 38 goals and 26 assists in 75 games this season, and two goals and two assists in seven playoff games. In his career, Pavelski has 95 points in 128 playoff games, including an NHL-best 14 goals during the Sharks' run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016.
Midway through the third period on Tuesday night, Pavelski's head slammed down on the ice following a cross-check to the chest by Knights center Cody Eakin and a collision with Vegas forward Paul Stastny. Pavelski was motionless for a moment, bleeding profusely through the top of his helmet. Brent Burns and other Sharks players surrounded their captain, calling for the training staff to come out. Pavelski eventually sat up, and gingerly skated to the bench, his teammate Joe Thornton pressing a towel against his head.
Pavelski would not return to the game.
"It could have been worse It could have been something like a fractured skull or something like that, so thankfully it wasn't. He's definitely feeling the effects of it," said DeBoer.
The Sharks coach wouldn't specify if Pavelski had a concussion, but added "I said he was feeling the effects. You can put two and two together on that."
The moment was the turning point in Game 7. Although there wasn't a call made on the ice at the time by referees Eric Furlatt and Dan O'Halloran, they later handed Eakin a five-minute major for cross-checking and a game misconduct. The Sharks used the injury as a rallying point, with Thornton bellowing "You guys go out and get three goals right now."
The Sharks would score four times on the five-minute power play and eventually win Game 7 in overtime to eliminate Vegas.
The fallout of the penalty call has been significant. The NHL phoned Vegas general manager George McPhee to apologize for the on-ice officials calling it incorrectly. While the cross-check was to Pavelski's chest, officials told the Golden Knights bench they believed it was to his head. Furlatt and O'Halloran were left off the NHL's list of officials for the second round of the playoffs.
DeBoer had no comment on NHL calling Vegas to apologize but said there were a couple of missed penalties earlier in the series "where I would have appreciated a [phone] call."
As for Pavelski's absence, one of a few injuries for the Sharks heading into their series with the Avalanche, DeBoer preached the "next man up" mantra.
"That's playoff hockey. We've talked about it all year: If you're going on any kind of run, you're going to have to use everybody at some point or another. And we're confident of the guys we have here. Who's out there is going to get it done," he said.