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San Jose Gets Thornton Back

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
The Sharks game with the New York Islanders Thursday night will be fun for all involved as it marks the return of Captain Joe Thornton from his NHL suspension.

“I can’t wait,” Thornton said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve played. It’s going to be fun.”

Thornton won’t let an odd play affect the way he approaches the game and will bring his size and talents as he always has.

“I’m not going to change anything,” Thornton said. “Just go play every night.”

While the best position for Thornton is on the ice, he acknowledged you can see things from a unique angle from the broadcast booth and the press box.

“It’s a much different game from upstairs, I think you see so much more,” Thornton said. “It looks so much easier. Once you get down at ice level, you realize there is not much time and space.”

His teammates managed to grab three of the four points available without him and he was proud of their efforts.

“I thought the boys played well against Tampa and pretty good against Anaheim,” Thornton stated.

“The boys” are glad they will have Thornton, for as nice as it was to earn three of four points without him, there is not one person in the organization who doesn’t realize how important the big center is.

“It will be great to have him back,” Nichol said. “He logs a lot of minutes and is our leader. He pretty much dictates the play and pace and I’m sure he is excited to get back.”

The Sharks head coach knows the importance as well.

“He’s a world class player with talent, vision and size,” Todd McLellan noted. “He’s an important piece on the power play, that is evident to everyone who watches the games, but in the lockerroom the players have chosen him as the captain. He has an ability and an energy around him in the lockerroom and we’ll have that back. Everyone feels a little more comfortable with him in the lineup.”

In the Sharks last game, Joe Pavelski played a bit of wing alongside Logan Couture. It looks like he will see more of that for tonight’s contest.

“Last year I lined up there a decent amount, in some games we would switch,” Pavelski said of playing away from the middle.

Within the Sharks system, the change is not too dramatic.

“There are a few sets where you know where you are supposed to be, but other than that, you play the game and you prepare for every position on the ice,” Pavelski said.

“I think certain teams play certain positional roles, ours are interchangeable,” McLellan said. “We don’t mind having wingers play down low. Pavs in particular is strong in his own end, so if Logan or he ends up down there, we’re comfortable. Offensively we let them wander and try to fill different lanes. There is not as much of a significance there. The big change is board play from the hash marks to the blueline. You’re center men aren’t there as much as your wingers, but we trust that Pavs can do that. We think he can adjust well.”

Plus, who is in the middle even at the start of a play can change with varying circumstances.

“I think you’ll see both of them in the middle tonight depending on faceoffs and which side,” McLellan said. “I’ve talked to both of them. It doesn’t bother us on the bench who plays the middle, we just need to know on the bench who’s coming so we don’t send two guys out for one.”

Pavelski, an American player, was asked for his thoughts on Veterans Day with San Jose’s parade to honor those who served starting right outside HP Pavilion.

“It’s a tremendous thing they do and there is a lot of honor in what they do,” Pavelski said. “It’s an important day to remember.”

When the Sharks face Anaheim six times a year, there is a lot of familiarity night in and night out. It’s not quite the same for an Islander’s team based in the Eastern Conference. So which is easier to play against?

“I like playing a team you are familiar with because then you know what guys tendencies are,” Scott Nichol said.

“I’ve played a lot of east coast hockey and it’s a different style,” Wallin said. “It’s tough when you don’t play these guys.”

Even though they don’t see each other a lot on the ice, that does not mean they aren’t aware of the other club’s talents.

“We’re all fans in here,” Nichol said. “We watch every team and how they play and watch the young draft picks and where they go. They are a young team and they work hard. Their record may not show it, but they are in every single game. They are a tough foe. They are going to compete hard.”

“I’d compare them a little bit with Chicago,” Niclas Wallin said. “They’ve got some good first round picks.”

The Long Island franchise is still close to the heart of San Jose’s bench boss as his NHL playing tenure took place with it.

“I had two and half great years in their organization,” McLellan said. “I was treated like gold and I think that is a reflection of the ownership then and the people that ran it. Mr. Torrey and Mr. Arbour were very good to their players and in return the players really wanted to play and reward them.”

McLellan was asked about a memory of his playing time there.

“No gray hair,” McLellan laughed. “I’m sure Terry Simpson has some though. There is still a little bit of Islander paraphernalia floating around the house, a jersey and a puck. My kids ask me, ‘where did that come from?’ They didn’t even know it existed.”

The Sharks will host the Islanders Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be found at and at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office. The contest will be on CSN California, 98.5 KFOX and

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