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Jumbo Joe ready for Boston return

by Dan Rosen
BOSTON - Joe Thornton sat at his corner stall inside the visitor's locker room at TD Banknorth Garden on Tuesday morning as calm as ever, despite a large media throng enveloping him, making him invisible to the rest of the players changing around him.

For obvious reasons -- mainly the Nov. 30, 2005 trade from Boston to San Jose for those not in the know -- Thornton is the center of attention in this nationally televised clash of conference powers set for tonight at 7 p.m. ET (Versus, TSN).

The last time Thornton returned to TD Banknorth Garden was Jan. 10, 2006, less than three months after he was traded by then Boston GM Mike O'Connell. Thornton was ejected 5:13 into the game for hitting Hal Gill from behind.

"I thought it was a love tap," Thornton joked Tuesday morning.

All kidding aside, he plans on lasting a while longer tonight.

Thornton, though, doesn't anticipate any sort of welcome from the Boston fans, who once adored him and thought he was going to be the next great Bruins' captain to bring a Stanley Cup to Boston.

"I don't expect anything," he said. "That's how I'm approaching this. Expect nothing and whatever comes out of it comes out of it."

Thornton's laid-back personality hasn't changed much since he left Boston. It was on display Tuesday morning, proving he's probably more suited for the California lifestyle anyway.

At the urging of Rob Blake, an avid surfer, Thornton said he recently bought a board and took to the waves.

"It's quite a workout," he said.

Since the Sharks have been in Boston since Sunday, Thornton has had the chance to reunite with some friends. Plus, his brother, Alex, who just completed his PhD at Boston University, and his parents are in town.

The visit has also allowed Thornton to eat at some of his old favorite restaurants.

"I enjoy eating and there are a lot of great restaurants here," Thornton said, claiming he misses Boston's selection of eateries the most.

Asked about what he remembers from his last trip back to Boston, Thornton said not too much.

"I remember going through warm-ups and all of a sudden I was out of the game," he said, drawing laughter from the throng. "I had a great warm-up."

His early ouster from the game, a 6-2 Sharks' victory, also disappointed a lot of people.

"A lot of people I bought tickets for were upset with me," he said.

He plans to make up for it tonight.
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