Joe Thornton wanted to fight him before the opening faceoff in the first playoff encounter.

Ryane Clowe later said if some guys met him in a back alley, “there would be some stuff happening.”

Ryan Kesler grins of what transpired two years ago. He agitated the San Jose Sharks to such a degree that they wanted to run the Vancouver Canucks centre out of the rink in a failed attempt to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup final.

So when the Canucks and Sharks clash again in the Western Conference quarterfinal series opener Wednesday at Rogers Arena, you can expect a healthy Kesler to be in full Beast Mode.

No bad foot, shoulder, wrist, hip or finger. At least nothing we’re aware of.

“I’m not going to focus on their players, I’m going to make them focus on me,” Kesler said Tuesday. “My job is to play in your face, play fast and produce. You get the other team talking about you, you’re obviously doing good things. It’s the way I was brought up and the way I play — especially this time of year.”

Back at centre ice between Chris Higgins and Zack Kassian, and back to his aggressive, agitating and dominant two-way game, Kesler doesn’t wonder if he’ll be matched up against Thornton or Logan Couture. He cares about winning and not what anybody says about him or his game.

In that series-clinching double-overtime Game 5 victory over the Sharks in 2011, Kesler hobbled with a torn hip labrum to tip a puck past Antti Niemi with 13.2 seconds remaining in regulation time. He had to take cortisone shots to keep playing before offseason surgery.

Fast-forward and Kesler is fresh with 13 points in 17 games after recovering from offseason shoulder and wrist surgeries, and then a fractured foot Feb. 15.

In the 2011 run to the Stanley Cup final, Kesler shut down Jonathan Toews, David Legwand and Thornton. He figured in 11 of 14 goals in a second-round series win over Nashville and was awarded the Selke Trophy.

It’s hard to imagine the Canucks going away from what has worked so well in the past.

“I’ll relish whatever role they put me in,” said Kesler. “If they want to load up the top six, I’ll definitely play the wing and succeed there. It’s that competitive level in me that you want to be better than the guy across from you. That doesn’t change from position to position. It’s a fun time of year, and I’m really excited about it.”