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Sharks looking ahead at success, not past failure

by Brian Compton
SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks are done talking about what transpired a year ago.

They're done talking about how that 2008-09 Presidents' Trophy victory translated into a first-round exit against the No. 8 Anaheim Ducks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It's exactly why Sharks GM Doug Wilson reshaped his roster last offseason, when he brought in nine new players to help change the culture of a franchise that gets another crack at redemption starting Wednesday night when it faces the Colorado Avalanche in Game 1 of this Western Conference quarterfinal at HP Pavilion (10:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC).

"It's a different team," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said when asked to compare this group with the one that was bounced 12 months ago. "I've had that question posed to me a lot over the last two days. Quite frankly, the answer occurred starting in training camp onward. It's not a two-day answer that just happened since we finished the (regular) season. We've adjusted the way we hold some players accountable, we've adjusted the way we use lines. The makeup of our team is different. There hasn't been a dramatic change in myself or the coaching staff over the last 48 or 72 hours. It's been a yearly thing." 

San Jose hit a minor bump in the road following the Olympic break, when it lost six-consecutive games. But the Sharks certainly responded down the stretch, going 8-1-1 in their final 10 games of the regular season.

Now, it's time to show the hockey world that it is capable of going on a deep run in the playoffs. Obviously, there's only one way to quiet the naysayers.

"On the outside, there's going to be that hype and that talk, and rightly so," captain Rob Blake said. "We've put that on ourselves as an organization. But this is a different team."

Wilson certainly gave the Sharks a different look last September when he acquired forward Dany Heatley and a 2010 fifth-round draft choice from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a second-round pick. Heatley finished with 39 goals this season, second only to Patrick Marleau's 44.

"You can't take anything for granted," Marleau responded when asked about the biggest thing the team learned from last year's disappointment. "Things happen real quick and you've got to be ready." 

After racking up 51 wins and 113 points in the regular season, there's no reason not to believe the Sharks aren't prepared for the eighth-place Avs, who were picked by many to finish near the bottom of the League standings and instead enjoyed a highly-impressive season.

Blake, who won a Stanley Cup with the Avs in 2001, assured everyone after Wednesday morning's skate that he and his teammates will be ready to roll when the puck drops at 10:30 ET/7:30 PT.

"You've got this much talent, you've got to seize the opportunity," Blake said. "We've got a good group here. We finished first in the West. Let's do our job."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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