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Training Camp

Thornton says knee 100 percent healthy to start Sharks camp

38-year-old center had surgery in April

by Eric Gilmore / Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- Center Joe Thornton was a full participant at the San Jose Sharks' first training camp practice Friday and said his surgically repaired left knee was 100 percent healthy.

"I feel good," Thornton said. "I rehabbed hard this summer. The knee feels great, to be honest with you. It feels real good."

Thornton, 38, tore the MCL and ACL in his left knee on April 2 in a regular-season game at the Vancouver Canucks. He missed the Sharks' final three regular-season games and their first two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Two weeks after being injured, he played Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round against the Edmonton Oilers. Thornton played the final four games of the series, which the Sharks lost in six games.

Thornton, San Jose's top-line center, had surgery April 24. He returned to the ice by early August, then, after a break, he "started ramping it up" two weeks ago.

"Jumbo is one of the most unique athletes, forget about hockey players, that I have ever seen," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. "Nobody loves the game more than Joe Thornton. The amount of work he's put in rehabwise and fitnesswise is such an inspiration to everybody in this organization. If we were starting [the season] tomorrow, he'd be ready to go."

Video: SJS@BOS: Thornton roofs a wicked wrist shot

Thornton spent most of his offseason strengthening his legs, particularly his quads.

"It was pretty much just to get my knee strong again," Thornton said. "But they feel real strong. I feel a lot of pop out there. They're probably as strong as they've ever been just because I had to rehab that knee so much."

Sharks center Logan Couture said he wasn't surprised to see Thornton fully healthy Friday, not after seeing him return during the playoffs with two torn knee ligaments.

"I couldn't believe it at the time," Couture said. "I believe he was skating three days after the injury. That blows my mind, and all of the other hockey players around the League who I talk to are still shocked by it. Guys with the same injury are out for six weeks, seven weeks."

Thornton said it was just business as usual for him Friday, other than the fact that Patrick Marleau, who was his longtime teammate, wasn't on the ice. The forward left the Sharks as a free agent, signing a three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 2 after 19 seasons with San Jose.

"I've spent a lot of years with him," said Thornton, who played 12 seasons with Marleau. "It is kind of strange. It's his (38th) birthday today too. It's a little weird, but he's going to do great up in Toronto.

"He's still a friend. We're going to miss him, but he's in a different uniform and we're in the same one."

Marleau is the Sharks leader in several categories, including goals (508), points (1,082) and game-winning goals (98). He's coming off a 27-goal season, and the Sharks will try to replace that production.

"A lot of guys, you know myself, everybody has to step up a little bit, score a couple more goals this year," Thornton said. "I think we've got some good young players that can accept a bigger role on the team. It's going to be by committee, how you replace a guy like that."

Though Wilson said the Sharks love Marleau and have great respect for him, he's confident San Jose can make up for his departure.

"He's a 38-year-old player," Wilson said. "We have a really good hockey team. Potentially the easiest position to play and integrate into this league is the wing position when you're strong down the middle. We have some players who are going to get extra ice time or play on that first power-play unit.

"We think it's just a natural growth or opportunity. Any team that's successful in this league gets contributions from everybody."

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