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Sharks Not Concerned with Past

by Eric Gilmore / San Jose Sharks

SAN JOSE -- It's been two years since the San Jose Sharks squandered a 3-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs

But as the Sharks began preparing Monday for a first-round rematch with the Kings, they treated that 2014 loss as if it were ancient history and said they aren't using it as motivation.

"I really don't think you think about it to be honest with you," Sharks center Joe Thornton said. "It's two years ago. A lot of things have happened in two years. This is 2016 Sharks versus Kings. That's how I look at it personally."

Only 10 Sharks who played in that 2014 series are still on the roster: Thornton, captain Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Justin Braun, Matt Nieto, Tommy Wingels, Tomas Hertl and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Ex-coach Todd McLellan parted ways with the Sharks after the 2014-15 season and was replaced by Peter DeBoer.

"That was really a long time ago," Vlasic said. "I don't remember much. This is a new season. We have 10 new players, new coaches. They have new players as well."

The Sharks took a 3-0 series lead in 2014, defeating the Kings 6-3, 7-2 and 4-3 in overtime. Then the Kings won four straight, outscoring San Jose 18-5 and becoming the fourth team in NHL history to win a seven-game series after losing the first three games.

The Kings defeated San Jose in 2013 in a semifinals series that went seven games. The Sharks and Kings met in the playoffs for the first time in 2011. The Sharks defeated Los Angeles 4-2 in the first round, winning three times in overtime, including two 6-5 victories.

"This has nothing to do with previous teams or previous records against previous team in other playoffs," DeBoer said. "This is a new team and this group is going to write their own story based on that."

Vlasic sustained a concussion and knee injury in the first period of Game 5 against the Kings and missed the rest of the series in 2014.

This year, Vlasic missed the final 12 regular-season games with a knee injury, but skated with Justin Braun, his regular top-pair defensive partner, throughout practice Monday and will be in the lineup for Game 1 on Thursday at Staples Center (10:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-CA).

"I'm looking forward to playing," Vlasic said. "Took the time to heal properly and now I'm ready to go."

The Sharks went 7-5-0 without Vlasic in their final 12 games.

"I think the addition of the depth throughout the year has made it easier for us to handle absences like his," DeBoer said. "But you don't replace a world-class defenseman like that. It's nice to have him back."

Forward Matt Nieto (broken knuckle) also missed the final 12 regular-season games, but practiced Monday and will return for Game 1. Nieto, one of San Jose's fastest skaters, was on the third line with center Patrick Marleau and Melker Karlsson.

"I feel great, 100 percent," Nieto said. "I'm ready to go. Everything's fine. Shooting the puck, fine. There's not a situation that I'm iffy about right now. I wouldn't come back if I weren't 100 percent. I'm feeling really good."

The Sharks went 3-1-1 against the Kings this season, winning each game at Staples Center and one of three in San Jose.

"I think every game we play them is intense," Thornton said. "It's no secret both teams don't like each other. Every game we play against the Kings both buildings are electric, both buildings are tough to play in. They're just fantastic games to be a part of."

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