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Sharks turn their focus to Vancouver

by Eric Gilmore /
SAN JOSE, Calif.  -- The San Jose Sharks had to travel a tough, seven-game road to beat Detroit and reach the Western Conference Finals against Vancouver after blowing a 3-0 series lead.

But when you're trying to win a Stanley Cup, sometimes tougher is better, said Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, who won a Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004.

"I think the seven-game series, although it was pretty stressful and not the way you want to win, I think that's something that's going to help us in the end," Boyle said Friday.

"Just adversity. You don't get to win a Stanley Cup without going through something. Personally, team-wise, you've got to go through something at some point. Had a little bit in the first round (against Los Angeles), obviously huge adversity in this last series here. Hopefully it gets guys to just come together. I think it was a good thing."

The Sharks were decompressing Friday, one day after their 3-2 high-wire Game 7 win against Detroit at HP Pavilion. A few Sharks took to the ice for an optional practice, but most used the day to rest and recuperate from what turned out to be a rugged series.

A year ago, the Sharks knocked off Detroit in five games to reach the conference finals against Chicago. They had a full week to prepare for the Blackhawks -- but lost four straight games. This year they'll have just two days to prepare for Sunday's opener at Vancouver, this season's Presidents' Trophy winner.

"We earned the right to play in it last year, and I thought we played hard last year," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We just ran into a team that was better than we were. The series against Chicago wasn't a lot different than the one we just played. They were one-goal games. They were very tight. All of them were contested for 60 minutes or more.

"I don't think that's going to change this year, but we talked about growth at the beginning of the year when we got together, and we've used that word all year. For us to have grown, we have to take this a lot further than we did last year."

If the Sharks are going to grow into a Stanley Cup finalist, they'll have to do it without the benefit of home-ice advantage.

The last time the Sharks opened a series on the road was 2007. In the conference quarterfinals that year, they beat Nashville 5-4 in overtime in Game 1 and went on to win the series 4-1. The Sharks opened their second-round series in 2007 with a 2-0 win at Detroit but wound up losing the series in six games.

Since 2000, the Sharks won four of seven series when they were the lower-seeded team, playing the first two games on the road. In six of those series they split their first two road games. In the other, they lost two to Dallas in a 2000 semifinals series and went on to lose 4-1.

"This is a different start for us as a team," Boyle said. "Everybody talks about you've got to win one on the road for the series to start, so we're in tough. (The Canucks) are there for a reason. They'll be energized and excited. They haven't been to this stage in a while. It's going to be pretty exciting for them. The crowd's going to be pretty pumped up. It will be fun."

"You go there to win Game 1, then you approach Game 2 and you come home," McLellan said. "You can't make any more out of it than that. We all understand at this time of the year the impact that home crowds have. All four teams that are left have great fans and their buildings are energized. It's nothing new, nothing we haven't experienced before. We'll be prepared for it."

The Sharks will also have to be prepared to face a Vancouver team packed with skill and star power, from the Sedin twins– Henrik and Daniel – to rugged Ryan Kesler and goaltender Roberto Luongo.

"They're Presidents' Trophy winner for a reason," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. "They have great goaltending. They've got probably the player who's going to win the MVP this year (Daniel Sedin) and the one that won it last year (Henrik Sedin). They're an all-around real good team. Good defense, good offense. Just, yeah, solid all around."

Sharks rookie Logan Couture sees this series as one more "opportunity ahead of us to grow" as a team.

"We have a great opponent," Couture said. "Vancouver has had a great year. They're first in almost everything. If you look at stats. It's going to be a great test for us and hopefully we can take a step in the right direction."

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