Sharks look to forget past playoff collapse against Kings
San Jose Sharks' Joe Pavelski, center, celebrates after scoring with teammates Brent Burns, left, and Joe Thornton during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Arizona Coyotes Saturday, April 9, 2016, in San Jose, Calif. San Jose won 1-0. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) After a one-year hiatus, the San Jose Sharks are back in the postseason against the team that knocked them out on their past two trips to the playoffs.
The Sharks aren't looking to use a third shot at the Los Angeles Kings as extra motivation heading into their first-round series.
''I really don't think you think about that to be honest with you,'' center Joe Thornton said. ''It's two years ago. A lot of things have happened in two years. This is 2016 Sharks versus Kings. That's how I look at it personally.''
Article continues below ...
While outsiders are focusing on those two seven-game series that went Los Angeles' way, the Sharks are doing their best to forget them. They lost a tightly contested second-round series in 2013 that featured the home team winning every game.
The following year's loss was much more painful as the Sharks became just the fourth NHL team to lose a best-of-seven series after winning the first three games. The cloud from that defeat lingered throughout last season as San Jose missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003 and parted ways with coach Todd McLellan.
''That was really a long time ago,'' said defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who got hurt in Game 5 in 2014. ''I don't remember much. This is a new season. We have 10 new players, new coaches. They have new players as well. It's a new start, a new season and we're writing our own season right now.''
While the Sharks have changed half their roster and brought on a new coaching staff led by Peter DeBoer and the Kings have made several changes as well, the main characters in the series will be familiar ones.
Los Angeles is once again led by centers Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter, defenseman Drew Doughty and goalie Jonathan Quick. The Sharks core is still anchored by Thornton, captain Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau up front and Vlasic and Brent Burns on defense.
The teams will be meeting in the playoffs for the fourth time in the past six seasons, with the Sharks winning in the first round in 2011 and the Kings taking the last two meetings.
''I think every game we play them is intense,'' Thornton said. ''It's no secret both teams don't like each other. Every game we play against the Kings both buildings are electric, both buildings are tough to play in. They're just fantastic games to be a part of.''
Thornton is one of 10 players left on San Jose who played in that series two years ago. The team made plenty of changes this past offseason, acquiring Martin Jones as the new starting goalie, defenseman Paul Martin and forwards Joel Ward and Joonas Donskoi.
In-season additions of Dainius Zubrus, Nick Spaling, Roman Polak and James Reimer have only added more depth as the Sharks now have four capable lines to match up with Los Angeles' deep roster and three pairs of defensemen that DeBoer trusts.
The newcomers also provide a new feeling in the dressing room for a franchise that has had plenty of regular season success but is still seeking its first trip to the Stanley Cup finals.
''You don't really worry about what's happened in the past,'' Pavelski said. ''There's a lot of new faces in here. I think we've got 10 or so guys that are different from that team, and you'd be cheating them if you let it bother you. So you only take what's going to help you in this situation and you apply it to your game now. We have a different identity in a lot of ways.''
Now they hope that new identity leads to different results.
NOTES: Vlasic (lower body) and F Matt Nieto (hand) practiced and should be good to go for the opener on Thursday. Both players missed the final 12 games of the regular season.