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Thornton Joins Elite Club With Gretzky And Lemieux

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
 
 
The Sharks saw an impressive team mark and an impressive individual mark reached Thursday night at HP Pavilion.
 
On the team front, the Sharks 4-3 victory over Calgary gave them 106 points for the campaign, eclipsing the 104 points Team Teal reached in 2003-04. 
 
“I’m proud of setting the record and of breaking the road record (for wins),” said Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson.  “I’m proud of what this group has done in all facets of the game.”
 
On the individual front, Joe Thornton is now part of a trio that is as elite as you can be in.  Thornton posted his 90th assist for the second consecutive season.  Only hall of famers Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux can claim that mark in the long history of the NHL.
 
“When you’re included in that type of company, that is special,” said Doug Wilson.
 
“That is phenomenal,” said Ron Wilson.  “Joe is in rarified air.  I hope people realize what they have.”
 
Thornton’s fellow All-Star center knows how special his roommate is playing. 
 
“The company he is in is huge,” said Patrick Marleau.  “I can see him continuing this each and every year.  He’s that great of a player.”
 
Doug Wilson feels that even though his Hart Trophy winner is slotted to finish second as opposed to first in this year’s scoring race, that Thornton is outperforming last season.
 
“This year he’s been better than last year,” said Doug Wilson.  “He’s coming into his prime and it’s pretty exciting for this organization.”
 
And what reaction would one expect from a player whose primary goal is to help others score?
 
“It just means that I have a lot of good players to pass the puck to,” said Thornton.  “I’m just giving it to Cheech and Milan.  It’s flattering to be in the same phrase with those players (Gretzky and Lemieux).”
 
SURFING FOR A PACIFIC TITLE
By winning Thursday, San Jose moved within one point of the Ducks for the Pacific Division lead.  Anaheim does have two games remaining to the Sharks one, but Friday the Ducks face a difficult task in Dallas Friday night and Sharks fans will find themselves cheering on the Stars. 
 
The Sharks could still catch Nashville for fourth place and home ice in the first round if Colorado tops the Predators Saturday evening and San Jose tops Vancouver. 
 
BACK-TO-BACK
San Jose pulled off the Thursday victory despite playing the night before while Calgary sat in San Jose waiting on the home team.
 
“Obviously the back-to-back takes a lot out of you,” said Thornton.  “To throw a good game out there felt good.  They were both one-goal playoff type games.  It’s a good sign.  They played well, we were just too much tonight.”
 
“I was so proud with how we played,” said Ron Wilson.  “This is the type of game we want our young players to experience now.  If we (want to) win the Cup, we’ll need to expect these games.”
 
Calgary is one of the most physical clubs in the league and San Jose matched them hit for hit.
 
“We responded,” said Hannan.  “We smacked them as much as they smacked us.”
 
The Sharks are playing and feeling well, no matter where they end up starting the postseason.
 
NABOKOV STILL IN NET
Ron Wilson has not announced that he will ride Evgeni Nabokov during the playoffs, but there have been hints, such as Nabokov playing both nights of back-to-back contests.
 
“He feels good,” said Ron Wilson.  “He’s in a rhythm and I’m not going to break that.”
 
HANNAN CUT AGAIN
Scott Hannan’s toughness may be among the best in the NHL with regards to working through difficult situations.  After all, this is the player who had a root canal during the intermission of a contest last year and retuned to suffer a split lip and see his face slammed into the boards – while still finishing the game.
 
On Thursday, Hannan was cut with a stick for a second consecutive contest.
 
“Things happen in the game,” said Hannan.  “I think my modeling career was shot years ago.”
 
RUSANOWSKY ON KNBR
Sharks radio play-by-play man Dan Rusanowsky will fill in for Gary Radnich from 9 a.m.-Noon on KNBR on Friday.
 
HOT
Joe Pavelski picked up his 13th assist tonight, the Sharks are now 16-5-1 when he scores a point.  Jonathan Cheechoo scored a goal to give him 18 points (13-5=18) in his last 12 games.
 
HOT SHOTS
The Sharks tied a season high with 42 shots, most recently accomplished February 28 versus Anaheim.
 
SELLING OUT
Including Thursday, the Sharks have 26 consecutive sellouts on home ice. On the season, the Sharks have sold out HP Pavilion for 35 out of their 40 games and the season finale will make it 36 of 41.
 
FLAMES HEAD COACH, JIM PLAYFAIR:
“I think we definitely took too many penalties.  We didn’t put ourselves in a playoff mindset for the full 60 minutes.”
 
NEXT GAME
San Jose will close out the regular season with a 1 p.m. Saturday matinee with Vancouver at HP Pavilion.  Limited tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.  The contest will be available on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.
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