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Joe Thornton of Sharks says he'll be OK for playoffs

Forward recovering from lower-body injury could return as soon as Thursday

by Eric Gilmore / Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton skated Wednesday for the first time since injuring his left knee Sunday and guaranteed he'd be ready for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"There's no doubt," Thornton said. "No doubt."

Thornton was injured late in the first period of a 3-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks when he collided with forward Michael Chaput along the boards. Thornton's left knee appeared to buckle. He struggled to get off the ice and had trouble standing once he reached the bench.

"I think I was just nervous," Thornton said. "That's all that was. Didn't want to put too much pressure on it. Just didn't know quite what happened. The next morning I woke up, no swelling, no nothing, so just kind of probably like a bruise, I guess."

Video: SJS@VAN: Thornton exits the game with apparent injury

Thornton had an MRI on Monday and missed a 3-1 win Tuesday against Vancouver, ending his streak of 201 consecutive games played.

"I had an MRI and everything looked good," Thornton said. "That was good news."

Thornton skated on his own for about 20 minutes before an optional practice. He avoided making hard stops or quick starts but took shots against goaltender Aaron Dell and tipped a few point shots from Brent Burns.

"I'm a quick healer," Thornton said. "Just a couple days, that's all I need. Who knows? Maybe I'll play tomorrow."

The Sharks play the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday at SAP Center (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCS CA+, SNW, NHL.TV) and the Calgary Flames on Saturday at home in their regular-season finale. San Jose (45-28-7) is tied with Edmonton for second place in the Pacific Division, four points behind the Anaheim Ducks. Edmonton has one game in hand.

The playoffs begin April 12.

"I'm pretty optimistic about things, so I never thought it was going to be too, too bad," Thornton said. "The training staff didn't think so either. They just told me a day-to-day type thing. I felt good today. It was good skating. So we'll see if it feels good tomorrow morning."

Video: NHL Tonight: Should San Jose be concerned

Center Logan Couture skated for the first time since he was hit in the mouth by a deflected puck in a 7-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on March 25. He wore a protective shield, covering the area that was damaged.

"I came in, felt good," Couture said. "Trainer suggested to go out on the ice and try out the new face shield."

Couture said he hopes to take part in the morning skate Thursday but won't play against Edmonton. He said he'll need to go through a full practice and have contact before he can return to game action.

"I want to be back tomorrow if I could," he said. "It's just not realistic at this point. We're going to try to get back as soon as possible. I don't know when that's going to be."

Couture said he's having some trouble breathing on the ice because of the arch brace he has on his bottom teeth and the mouth guards he has to wear.

Pain is also an issue, although he said he stopped taking pain medication a week ago.

"Just a lot of trips to the dentist, unfortunately," he said.

Video: SJS@NSH: Couture takes puck to face, leaves game

Couture said he wasn't surprised when Thornton joined him on the ice.

"I'm never surprised with him," Couture said. "I don't think there's a guy that loves the game of hockey more than Joe Thornton and a guy that hates sitting out hockey games more than him. He could go through the most catastrophic injury and we'd expect him to be out (there) the next day. He's unbelievable, really."

Couture is third on the Sharks with 52 points (25 goals, 27 assists), and Thornton is fourth with 50 (seven goals, 43 assists). (Burns has 74, and forward Joe Pavelski has 68).

"It was nice to go out (and skate) together," Thornton said. "Hopefully we're on the same timetable. It would be nice to see us both back quickly, hopefully."

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