Mark J. Terrill Associated Press The Kings' Justin Williams reacts after one of his two second-period goals against Sharks goalie Antti Niemi on Tuesday.

Sharks grapple with elimination from postseason

Published: Thursday, May. 30, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 5C
Last Modified: Thursday, May. 30, 2013 - 6:40 am

SAN JOSE – Sharks captain Joe Thornton still was coming to grips with the end of his team's season Wednesday morning, less than 15 hours after a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.

"It (stinks) that it ends," Thornton said. "You kind of like the aches and pains, because you know you're still playing hockey."

Thornton, who had two goals and eight assists in San Jose's 11 playoff games, said the Sharks "really bonded as a team, hit our stride and away we went. We were having so much fun, it was contagious in the locker room. Guys were excited to play for each other."

Thornton is aware that when the Sharks reconvene in the fall for the 2013-14 season, the roster is unlikely to be the same as it was since the trade deadline. San Jose has a number of soon-to-be unrestricted free agents, including winger Raffi Torres and center Scott Gomez.

Torres was suspended for the remainder of the second round after his hit on Kings center Jarret Stoll in Game 1. Stoll suffered a concussion but might be available in the conference finals.

"Raf was great. You could tell that we missed Raffi," Thornton said. "Gomez was just a good veteran that's been there and done that, a calming influence on the guys.

"Every team that you're on is different once October rolls around, but I think those two guys were a big part of this team and a big reason we were where we were."

Asked about Torres' and Gomez's looming free agency, coach Todd McLellan said, "They get to decide, and internally we have to decide where we want to go with the team. But we haven't had time to decompress or even begin to think about those types of questions."

The other most notable unrestricted free agent is defenseman Scott Hannan, who had four assists in the playoffs and formed a reliable defensive pair with Brad Stuart.

Thornton said he felt fine physically and he wouldn't need offseason procedures. But it was revealed after Game 7 that defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic had suffered a hairline fracture in his right foot in Game 4 and needed to have it frozen before the remaining games so he could play. And center Logan Couture had a sprained ankle, suffered when he was tangled up with Kings forward Jeff Carter in Game 3.

McLellan, like Thornton, believes the Sharks have a solid foundation to build on.

"As the year wore on, more and more players were given opportunities to assume bigger roles. The positive sign is they were capable of doing it," McLellan said. "Now everyone can get better. The 12- or 14-year player can be better, the coach can be better. The young players have to be better."

Blackhawks 2, Red Wings 1 in Chicago – Brent Seabrook sent a wrist shot past goalie Jimmy Howard's glove 3:35 into overtime to give Chicago a Game 7 victory in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Blackhawks overcame a 3-1 series deficit to reach the conference finals against the Kings starting Saturday in Chicago.

Rangers – Coach John Tortorella was fired four days after New York's season ended with a Game 5 loss to Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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