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Thornton, Sharks won't dwell on past

San Jose focused on getting by Kings in Game 5 on Friday

by Shawn P, Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton has no time for ancient history.

"I can't even remember three weeks ago," said Thornton, the team's elder statesman.

Thornton was joking, sort of. He can remember three weeks ago. He can also remember two springs ago when the Los Angeles Kings found their way back from a 3-0 series deficit and knocked the Sharks out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Thornton was the captain of that team that ended up on the wrong side of history. The failure to win one of the final four games cut deeply across the franchise. The pain intensified the following year when the Sharks missed the playoffs altogether.

Now they are back in the postseason, given the opportunity to right the wrongs of the past through another first-round matchup against the Kings, who have been their personal nightmare for so long.

Game 5 of the Western Conference First Round series at Staples Center on Friday (10:30 p.m. ET: CNBC, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-CA, PRIME) will be the 19 th playoff game between these California rivals, dating to the second round of the 2013 playoffs. The Kings won each series in seven games.

Video: LAK@SJS, Gm4: Pavelski buries Thornton's pass for PPG

All joking aside, Thornton, replaced as captain by Joe Pavelski this season, said he believes the links to the past have been broken.

This is a brand-new Sharks team, full of players and coaches no longer anchored by what has come before.

"So much has changed, coaching, players," Thornton said Thursday at Sharks Ice, a little more than 12 hours removed from a wild 3-2 win in Game 4 that put San Jose on the brink of advancing and finally removing the thorn that has been in their side for the past three years. "Probably the only thing that has remained the same is we have the same training staff. It's remarkable how much turnover has come from that team two years ago to this point."

Sure, the players have changed; that is the way the NHL operates now. Ten players remain from the 2014 team that stumbled four times after taking the 3-0 lead.

But the Sharks' philosophy also changed.

Coach Pete DeBoer was brought in to be a new voice for the veteran core that remains from past playoff disappointments.

Video: LAK@SJS, Gm4: Burns buries Ward's great feed for PPG

DeBoer, who took the upstart New Jersey Devils on a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012, against the Kings, has preached the same lesson to his group from the first day.

"We tried to lay a foundation in training camp for this time of year so that we would be able to withstand the highs and the lows and the ups and the downs and keep relying on that [foundation] and that is what we are doing," DeBoer said.

There weren't higher highs or lower lows than during a wild third period in Game 4. The Sharks took a 3-0 lead early in the period and the party had begun in earnest in the SAP Center stands.

Less than five minutes later, the Sharks were hanging on for dear life after the Kings scored two goals.

But the Sharks handled the biggest push of the series from the Kings. San Jose may have played the majority of the final 10 minutes in their end, but they did not get rattled and they did not allow the tying goal.

"When it was 3-2 for a while last night, I felt calm and the guys seemed like they were calm and, even if everyone else in the building was nervous, it was a lot of fun," said Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who had two blocked shots in the final minute. "I didn't expect anything less than a close game."

Video: LAK@SJS, Gm4: Marleau backhands it home for PPG

The Sharks know they will face a similar effort from the Kings on Friday at Staples Center and they are ready for it.

"We realized they were going to give us a good push early on and we just needed to get through that and we did and we went on from there," Thornton said. "As far as the big mistake; if there is a big mistake, guys are there to back up that mistake.

"You know, guys are looking after each other and that is what good teams do. If you have a little oopsie there is a guy behind you to correct it, that's a nice feeling to have."

Now, because of that belief in each other, the Sharks are one win from moving on in the playoffs, the stated goal from Day One. They won't be thinking about the past Friday, only about the present.

That's just the way it should be, according to Thornton.

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