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DeBoer on Facing Pavelski in Conference Finals: “It’s tough.”

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Peter DeBoer versus Joe Pavelski.

Last summer, if you had told San Jose Sharks fans that this would be the 2020 Western Conference Finals match-up, they would have been elated.

But instead, it’s a cruel reminder of Sharks teams past (good), present (bad), and future (ugly?).

The Vegas Golden Knights head coach betrayed some emotion this afternoon, telling The Las Vegas Review-Journal that “it’s tough” to coach against his former captain and current Dallas Stars forward, especially so close to the Stanley Cup Final.

It was DeBoer who named Pavelski captain of the Sharks in October 2015, before his first season behind the San Jose bench. And DeBoer’s respect for Pavelski has clearly only grown over the years.

“He sent [Vegas assistant coach Steve Spott] and I a text last night, congratulating us. In typical Joe fashion, he said we’ll talk to you after the series is over. He’s got his game face on. There’ll be no communication. He’s there for one thing and that’s to win,” DeBoer revealed of Pavelski’s text. “You respect the hell out of him for that attitude because when you were coaching him, that’s what you loved about him. That’s what carried a lot of the teams we had through the runs we went on.”

But now, the San Jose Sharks stalwarts are on opposite sides, vying for the same prize. Last summer, Pavelski signed a three-year contract with the Stars. In January, the Golden Knights hired DeBoer, just one month after the Sharks let him go.

But even when discussing the Stars’ Miro Heiskanen with The Las Vegas Sun, DeBoer couldn’t help but throw a kind word in about his San Jose Sharks captain: “[Heiskanen is] special. Steve Spott and I, we’ve run into our old captain, Joe Pavelski, a few times here in the bubble. What Joe says about him, just as a player and a person, carries the most weight. He says the kid is a superstar.”

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