Fred Chartrand Canadian Press Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson acknowledges two young fans Sunday. The NHL season begins today after a 119-day lockout.

Sharks bring back most of 2012 team

Published: Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 7C
Last Modified: Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 - 12:17 am

SAN JOSE – The Sharks responded to their quickest playoff exit in a run of eight straight postseason appearances with tinkering instead of a roster overhaul.

There will be some changes on the third and fourth lines as the Sharks, who begin the season Sunday in Calgary, plan to take a look at some younger players, and former first-round pick Brad Stuart is back on defense seven years after being traded away.

But the core of the team is strikingly similar to the group that got knocked out of the playoffs early last season with a five-game loss to St. Louis in the first round after two straight trips to the conference finals.

"I'd like our players to still have last year in the back of their minds," coach Todd McLellan said. "The memory of what we did well and what we didn't do well. I'd also like them to move forward."

McLellan wants the Sharks to be a faster team that annoys opponents and supports each other rather than playing as individuals. Those characteristics were lacking at times last season, especially during a midseason slide that almost cost San Jose a playoff berth and then in the early exit against a Blues team that was quicker to the puck and superior on special teams.

The memory of that series is still fresh nine months later, considering so many of the players went through it. The top nine scorers from last season led by captain Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Ryane Clowe are all back. The six defensemen who got the most ice time last season, led by Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns, and goal-tenders Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss also are back for another run at that elusive Stanley Cup.

"We've had a few more changes before," Pavelski said. "We didn't perform the way we thought we could (last season). It's always disappointing. Hopefully, everyone got their rest and got what they needed to be ready this year. There's a lot of work that has to go into the process to get back to that point."

In fact, only two of the 28 players in training camp were not in the organization last season: Stuart and free-agent forward Adam Burish.

The Sharks also are hoping for bigger contributions from young players such as Tommy Wingels and Andrew Desjardins and others who got little time in the NHL last year, like John McCarthy, Frazer McLaren and James Sheppard.

"I'm not going to come in and try to do anything special," Burish said. "I'm not going to come and try to save the day here. They don't need that. This team is an elite team in the NHL and has been elite for a long time. I'm excited and I feel fortunate that I will be a part of it."

Burish will be a part of the reconfigured third and fourth lines as the Sharks plan to start the season with the same two groups that played together so much late last year with Thornton, Marleau and Pavelski teaming on the first line and Couture, Clowe and Marty Havlat forming the second. They hope that continuity will pay off early in a season where teams have little time for preparation.

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