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Sharks downplaying revenge factor vs. Penguins

San Jose comes to Pittsburgh for first time since losing Stanley Cup Final in June

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture briefly opened the blinds to offer a glimpse inside the mind of a player starting to go through the grind of yet another NHL season.

Couture, standing in the visitors' locker room at Barclays Center late Tuesday with a half-eaten slice of pizza in his hands approximately 10 minutes after helping his team finish a 3-2 win against the New York Islanders, was asked a question about getting ready to play the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time since losing to them in the Stanley Cup Final four-plus months ago.

His eyebrows went up as he gave a quizzical look, almost like he wanted to ask why this topic was being brought up in the first place.

"I hadn't really thought about it until you just mentioned it," Couture said.

Not even once?

"You move past it and get ready for the next one," Couture said.

If you were wondering how the Sharks were going to approach playing the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; CSN-CA, ROOT, NHL.TV), the first game between the teams since Pittsburgh beat them to win the Stanley Cup in Game 6 at SAP Center on June 12, now you know.

"I don't really think about what happened [last season]," Sharks defenseman Brent Burns said. "You can't do anything about it, so I don't really think about it. We have enough [stuff] to worry about now. A new year, trying to get our game back to get back there. It's like at the end of the year if you don't make the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs you don't really dwell on it, you just try to get back in the playoffs. It's no different. We had a good run, we had a great time doing it, but you've got to move on."

Video: SJS@NYR: Burns rips wrister top shelf from the slot

It's hard to argue with that mindset, considering the Penguins aren't a traditional rival to the Sharks and the game is being played on a Thursday in October, not on national television and across the world in June, as in the Stanley Cup Final.

"I mean, it's just another game," Burns said.

Maybe so, but it's not as if what happened last season won't be at least a passing thought when he and his teammates walk into the arena Thursday. How could the sight of the Penguins' logo, of their players, not elicit at least some type of emotional response?

"It'll be interesting," coach Peter DeBoer said. "I don't know what it means. I don't know what the emotions will be until I get in there."

That's interesting coming from DeBoer, the only person in the Sharks' group who had experienced losing in the Cup Final before last season.

DeBoer reached the Final with the New Jersey Devils in 2012, when they lost in six games to the Los Angeles Kings. He didn't return to Los Angeles with the Devils until Nov. 21, 2013, because Eastern Conference teams didn't play Western Conference teams during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

"It was obviously tough to go on that long of a journey and then lose the way we did [last season]," DeBoer said. "I don't think there was any doubt at the end of the day that [the Penguins] deserved to win. But at the same time, I think for us it's a chance to go in, and we're a different team this year, and make a statement that we are a different team this year."

Defenseman Paul Martin echoed the part about making a statement and went as far as saying the Sharks should feel a sense of motivation because of what happened last season.

"There's always the nerves and that kind of thing coming into a game, but I think for us we have something to prove, that we still belong there, still deserve to be there, belong as one of the best teams in the League," Martin said. "To prove that you've got to beat the best."

The Penguins obviously were the best throughout the playoffs last season. The Sharks learned that the hard way and admittedly were surprised by it.

Couture said he didn't expect the Penguins to be that much better than his team in a series that went six games only because of an overtime goal by forward Joonas Donskoi in Game 3 and a sensational goaltending performance by Martin Jones in Game 5, when he made 44 saves.

"They were a lot better than us," Couture said. "They outplayed us throughout that series, which was unfortunate. But it was a fun ride to get there."

The Sharks hope they're starting a ride back to the Cup Final now. They won't complain if it goes through the Penguins again in June, but they also won't overthink what's ahead of them now, this early in what will be a six-month grind just to get back to the playoffs.

"Now that it's here it'll be good, it'll be fun," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Obviously we would have liked a better result the last time we played that team, but it's two points, it's a new year, and it's important that we keep building our game, keep trying to get better. We understand it's a long ways from getting back to that position and this is another good team we'll be playing."

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