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Sharks' experience could prove pivotal in Game 7

by Staff

San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle knows all about big games. Playing for Canada, he won a gold medal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver with a 3-2 overtime win over the United States. Five-and-a-half years earlier, as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, he won the Stanley Cup with a 2-1, Game 7 victory against the Calgary Flames.

Having played in every conceivable big-game scenario, Boyle said the Sharks will just need to stay loose heading into Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night at Staples Center (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

That laid-back attitude served the Sharks well Sunday, when they forced the winner-take-all contest with a 2-1 win at HP Pavilion.

"If you get too uptight, not just in hockey but any sport, that can backfire. Definitely we had a loose locker room yesterday," Boyle said following San Jose's practice Monday. "Drawing from my experience, whether it's the Olympic gold-medal game or Stanley Cup Final, you have to be somewhat loose or the nerves will get to you a little bit."

Big-game experience from Boyle and 2010 Canada teammates Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau should serve the Sharks well in Game 7. History has proven particularly kind to the trio. Boyle has won all three Game 7s in his career, and the Sharks are 2-0 in Game 7s since Thornton was traded to San Jose in 2005.

In fact, the franchise is 5-2 all-time in Game 7s, with their last Game 7 loss against the Colorado Avalanche in 2002.

San Jose won their most recent Game 7 in 2011 against the Detroit Red Wings. Los Angeles has lost its two most recent Game 7s, against the Avalanche in 2001 and 2002.

It's a nice history but meaningless to Sharks coach Todd McLellan.

"You can reference your past, your emotions that you felt before," McLellan said. "I'm not too sure that's going to have a big effect on the game. What we did two years ago in Game 7, what they did in Game 7."

If anything, McLellan cited a more recent experience his team should draw on when they take the ice: Friday's 3-0, Game 5 loss in Los Angeles.

"I think Game 5 can help us in Game 7. That's the experience to draw on. We didn't play well, they had some things going for them," McLellan said. "If we draw on anything, that's what I want us to draw on. Knowing what that feeling was like, knowing what we did to change some things, knowing how we executed."

A main aspect of the Sharks' execution in Game 7 could be their success in the faceoff circle, which played large role in the win in Game 6. San Jose won 31 of 53 draws against Los Angeles on Sunday, with recently returned forward Adam Burish winning all four of his draws.

"A big thing for us will be faceoffs. We didn't do a good job in Game 5 at all," McLellan said. "It gave them opportunities to play in our end. That will be one area, but there are other things we've talked about to give ourselves a chance."

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