High hopes in San Jose as it opens NHL season today

  • San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton (19) congratulates Joe Pavelski (8) after Pavelski scored his second goal against the Dallas Stars during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 31, 2012, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

SAN JOSE — The San Jose 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 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 still strikingly similar to the group that got knocked out of the playoffs early 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. Part of that is re-establishing our identity. Who are we and how do we play, how do we want to play."

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 year, especially during a midseason slide that almost cost San Jose a playoff berth<WC>. The Sharks then played uninspired hockey in the early exit against a Blues team that was quicker to the puck and vastly superior on special teams.

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