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Dainius Zubrus hoping third trip to Stanley Cup Final is the charm

PITTSBURGH – While Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks are experiencing their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final, teammate Dainius Zubrus is back for a third time.

A year after he was taken in the first round of the 1996 NHL Draft, Zubrus was playing in the Final as a fresh-faced rookie for the Philadelphia Flyers. The series ended in a sweep for the Detroit Red Wings. Three teams and fifteen years later, he was back playing for the Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils. The Los Angeles Kings prevailed in six games.

Will the third time be the charm for the soon-to-be 38-year-old Zubrus?

After the first trip, Zubrus’ teams failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs for over a decade. It didn’t take him long to realize just how hard it is to win the Stanley Cup. 

“I just remember that subconsciously you think it’s a little bit easier than what it is,” said Zubrus. “You’re 18 years old, you’ve just come from Tier II, you make it to the NHL and a year later you play in the Final. Right now, 20 years later, I do know how hard it is it to get to this point. It was a few years ago that we were in the Finals and were two wins away. This is another chance and another try.”

Getting to this point of the season is great for any player, but the ultimate goal is reaching that 16th win that only one team gets to celebrate. Despite years of prolonged success, the Sharks have continually fallen short for various reasons. In the cases of Marleau and Thornton, this first crack at the Cup has been a long time coming.

“Those guys have had great years for 19-20 years now and they had great teams in San Jose too,” Zubrus said. “For whatever reason, it’s just very hard to get to this point and to win it. We know that and we realize it; some heavy lifting as we say is going to be [needed] next couple of games to win it.”

Zubrus was reunited with Peter DeBoer earlier this season and sees a lot has stayed the same since they were together in New Jersey in 2012.

“He keeps it honest with all of us and what we need to do,” said Zubrus. “Of course, in the playoffs he’s great at seeing things and making a couple of tweaks in our own system. He can adjust to the teams a little bit. That’s what I like about it. You come every day to the rink and there’s no real kind of mind games. It is what it is. If you play good, good, try to play better, and if you didn’t, wake up.” 

As Game 1 finally arrives Monday night, Zubrus has a message for his teammates, young and old, experiencing the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in their careers. 

“This could be the best chance of their life and probably the best team they’re going to be on for some of us, don’t waste the opportunity,” he said.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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