In San Jose’s last home win against St. Louis, Joe Thornton
moved past Patrick Marleau
and became the club’s all-time leader in assists. His 391 assists while wearing teal are two more than Marleau now has. Thornton has set the franchise mark in four full seasons and parts of two others and it’s been a fun ride since he came to San Jose towards the end of 2005.
His teammates say it’s not a question of where Thornton ranks in Sharks history, but maybe National Hockey League history.
“I’ve said it all along, if he’s not the best passer in the League, he’s one of the best,” Dany Heatley said. “You look at his all-time numbers and he’s one of the best all-time passers in the game. It’s a great compliment for him.”
“He’s unbelievable, the best in the League with the size, reach and vision he has,” Patrick Marleau
Thornton’s teammates and Head Coach Todd McLellan all have memories of Thornton making them look good on a score.
“I think a couple that stick out were against Philly last year at home,” Heatley said. “We had a couple of 2-on-1s. I gave him the pass and waited and waited and waited. Twice he waited until that lane came open for a tap. I would say those two were pretty special. Everyone was holding their breath and he put it in at the last minute. You can’t give up on a play with him.”
Marleau recalls a no-look pass on the road against Dallas where Thornton tossed one backhanded from along the boards, without looking, and threaded the needle to the man he passed on the assist list.
“Maybe the one in Dallas,” Marleau said. “We made eye contact and I just stayed in the right spot and he made the pass.”
McLellan had the honor of coaching Thornton at the Canadian Hockey League’s top prospects game in junior hockey.
“For me, it was well before I even came into the National Hockey League,” McLellan said. “I had a chance to coach in the Top Prospects game when I was in junior and that was Jumbo’s draft year. Jumbo and Patty were both there. When you’re the No. 1 or No. 2 pick as they were, you separate yourselves from the field. You could see Jumbo had the ability to pass and was a playmaker.”
Even some of the NHL’s best snipers had to adjust for a pass at any moment.
“The first few games,” Marleau said of how quickly he learned, “you have to ready in a second if you’re in the right spot. It’s nice if you’re going to the net, the puck is going to end up on your stick.”
“You get a feel for when he’s going to do it, but the biggest thing is trusting he’s going to get it through,” Heatley said. “He’s going to find that seam, so you can’t just think the lane is closed up and it’s not coming through.”
The dishes that create goals end up on the highlight reel, but Marleau notes there are plenty of other times he works magic that help make a play.
“I think the best passes are maybe the ones that don’t end up in the back of the net,” Marleau said.
Some of Thornton’s assists should almost go down as goals since the shooter has so little to do.
“Usually half the time, he’s using you as a backboard,” Marleau said. “He’s playing pool out there and he knows if your stick is there, it will bounce off and in. He’s basically calling (his shot).”
Marleau had no problem surrendering the assist title, acknowledging Thornton will be chasing him for other scoring marks as well.
“He’s got a lot left in him too,” Marleau said.RYANE CLOWE
took to the ice for the first time since he was injured on Jan. 13 against Edmonton.
“That was the first time I skated, it felt good,” Clowe said. “We’ll see how it responds today and the pregame skate tomorrow. Every day is a step forward.”
A positive step, but no assurance Clowe will dress Saturday against Minnesota.
“It’s a good sign, but I don’t know if it’s a good sign for tomorrow yet,” McLellan said. “We’ll see. If he’s good and we don’t run any further risk of him injuring himself, he’ll play. If there’s any risk at all, we won’t take that chance. We’ve got three days before the next game and we’ll see how it is in the morning.”
THE MYSTERY GOALTENDER IS…
The Sharks were without a back-up netminder for Friday’s practice so they invited former San Jose State University club netminder Martin Moody to help out. He’s done so before and is a regular prior to training camp.
“I coach here for the Jr. Sharks program. It’s a lot of fun,” Moody said. “They invited me out here the last five years (for the Captain’s Practices). It’s always fun, always humbling. There’s not much you can do out there on some of their shots. It’s always a good time though.”
STAT OF THE DAYPatrick Marleau
is 48th all-time in NHL game-winning goals.
SAMPLING WITH THE SHARKS
Join the Sharks Foundation and Joseph George Wines as they present a wine tasting event unlike any other. Enjoy some of the finest wines from throughout Northern California while mingling with Sharks players, coaches and broadcasters at Club Auto Sport in San Jose (521 Charcot Avenue, San Jose). Click here for more information
The Sharks will play hosts to Minnesota at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and tickets can be found at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.