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Jumbo Is In For Game 5

by Tony Khing / San Jose Sharks
“When Joe Thornton comes to you and tells you he’s playing, he’s playing. It could happen in exhibition season. That could happen in St. Thomas at a charity game in the middle of summer.”


San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton (19) works for the puck against Vancouver Canucks left wing Alex Burrows (14) during the first period of Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference finals in San Jose, Calif., Sunday, May 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
And with that statement, Coach Todd McLellan told the media today that his captain will be playing in tomorrow’s Game 5 of the Western Conference Final between the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks.

Thornton, who’s from St. Thomas in Ontario, left Sunday’s Game 4 midway through the third period after colliding with Vancouver forward Raffi Torres along the boards. Thornton skated just slightly over four minutes of the third period. For the game, he had two shots and won 65 percent of his faceoffs.

Entering tonight’s play, Thornton is tied for second in scoring amongst all Stanley Cup Playoff performers with 17 points (three goals and 14 assists).

This morning, only half of the Sharks players participated in an optional skate before the team left for Vancouver. Thornton wasn’t among those who skated and didn’t speak to the media before leaving. “Throughout the playoffs, a lot of the high minute guys choose not to skate, simply because of fatigue and to replenish the gas tank,” McLellan said. “Jumbo is in that situation as well.”

“Joe’s a warrior,” Logan Couture said. “He plays through a lot. He plays hurt all of the time. He’s a great player. I’m sure he’ll be good tomorrow.”

“We’d like to see him back in the lineup,” Patrick Marleau said. “He’s a huge help and obviously a very big player.”

“I’m not even sure myself what the situation will be,” said Dan Boyle about Thornton’s playing time tomorrow. “Just the presence of having him around is something that we need.”

“I think it’s important that he plays the game,” McLellan said. “I think you’ll see a very good Joe Thornton.”

TOMORROW OR BUST
Yesterday’s 4-2 loss in Game 4 to Vancouver left many Sharks players upset and angry. But today, they’re looking at tomorrow’s critical Game 5 (the Sharks trail in the series, 3-1) in only one way: positively.

San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle (22) is congratulated by teammates after scoring past the Vancouver Canucks during the third period of Game 3 of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference final hockey series Friday, May 20, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
“Why not?” Boyle said. “I’m not going to sit here and pout. We did that last night. If we do get a chance to come back home, and I think we will, we’re going to be a better team. We’re going there (to Vancouver) to win a game and we like our chances coming back here. It’s going to come down to seven games and that’s the thought process right now.

“We have to be optimistic,” Boyle concluded. “That’s what we have to do.”

“Our focus is going to Vancouver, winning one game and bringing it back here,” Marleau said.

“We have to play in their end more,” Couture said. “Wear their D down, get pucks to (Roberto) Luongo and just play the same hockey we’ve played all year. We know what to do. We know how to win. We just have to go out there and do it.

“I’m just looking at one game right now,” Couture added. “We have to win there (Rogers Arena). We haven’t won there yet in these playoffs. It’s a tough building to go into. Their fans are going to be loud. We have to go in there, play well and bring this thing back to San Jose.”

If San Jose is to have any chance against Vancouver, they have to avoid the penalty box. Vancouver’s three 5-on-3 goals made the difference in Game 4. San Jose also has to perform better on the power play. The Sharks were held scoreless in five chances, four of those coming within the game’s first 22 minutes.

“Our execution was off,” Marleau said about the Sharks power play. “We’d get it in, but we wouldn’t retrieve pucks and when we did, we’d bobble it or not get a stick on it. These are things we can clean up and do better next game.”

While the power play and the penalty kill were sources of frustration, give the Sharks credit for playing good overall defense. They held the Canucks to only 13 shots on goal.

“I believe they had six or seven 5-on-5 (it was seven) shots,” Boyle said. “If you asked me before the game started that they’d have that many shots, I would’ve taken it.”

The four teams remaining in the NHL’s postseason tournament all have the right talent, coaching and skill, otherwise they wouldn’t be in this position. But now, there’s one other thing they need: a short memory. Whether it’s good or bad, the previous game is past and belongs in the past.

“That’s something we always have to work at,” Marleau said. “That’s what’s laid out for us now and that’s what we’re going to concentrate on doing. You have to take what you can from the previous game, forget about the rest and move on.”

“In the playoffs,” McLellan said, “you have to have short memories. It’s all about getting through Game 5. That’s all there is. It doesn’t matter what happened through Games 1-4. It’s about getting through Game 5 and finding a way to win.”

FROM THE PUCK BAG
One player who skated this morning was Jason Demers. The defenseman hadn’t been on the ice since Game 7 of the Detroit semifinal series. Will he or won’t he play in Game 5? “When the coach decides it’s my time to play, it’s my time to play,” he said…Another bright spot from Sunday was rookie Andrew Desjardins scoring his first playoff goal in Game 4. He said he received 10 texts and five voice messages from close friends and family following the game. Desjardins also said a friend made him his last choice in a playoff fantasy pool. Talk about a sleeper pick. However, there’s just one thing Desjardins is missing from his day: the puck he shot past Luongo in the third period.

WILL HISTORY BE MADE?
That’s the National Hockey League’s marketing slogan for this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. This could also be the mantra for this year’s Western Conference Final.

Research by sjsharks.com has found that 24 teams who’ve trailed a playoff series 3-1 have rallied to win the series. This deficit has happened 241 times, so the percentage of successful comebacks is at 10.1 percent.

Over the last three seasons, there have been four comebacks from a 3-1 deficit. This year, the No. 5-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning was down to the fourth-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins before rallying. Last year, two series were in this predicament (Eastern Conference Quarterfinals between No. 8 Montreal – the eventual winner – and No. 1 Washington; and the semifinals between No. 7 Philadelphia – which lost to Chicago in the final -- and No. 6 Boston. In 2009, the No. 7 New York Rangers had that lead before bowing to the No. 2 Washington Capitals.

By the way, there’s been only one comeback in a conference final series: the 2000 Eastern Conference Final between No. 4 New Jersey (winner) and No. 1 Philadelphia.

GAME ON!
Tomorrow’s Game 5 will start at 6 p.m. and can be seen on Versus and heard on 98.5/102.1 K-FOX FM and www.sjsharks.com

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