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Thornton Starting To Roll

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
It may be a scary thought for the rest of the NHL, but Joe Thornton is cranking up the offensive stats again and could be making a second half run at defending his Art Ross Trophy. Coming off his two-point night Monday against Colorado, the League’s reigning MVP has registered six multi-point games in his last nine contests, good for 17 points (3-14=17).
 
His season totals now have him in the NHL’s top 10 in scoring with 58 points. Jumbo Joe was tracking for a 100 point season early on, but amazingly Thornton is now inching that number further upward and is quietly within four points of the NHL’s second spot.
 
While it was kept closely guarded at the time, Joe quietly played through numerous injuries early in the season.
 
“He had a broken toe, a broken finger, strep throat, a groin pull and he didn’t miss practice,” said Head Coach Ron Wilson. “He had to get his toe frozen during games and would get it frozen for practice too.”
 
Even many hockey players would have been looking for more days off to heal and rest.
 
“Anybody who has ever had a shot stuck in their fingers or toes understands that it is not fun,” said Wilson.
 
It was not necessarily that the injuries slowed Thornton, although there was obviously some effect, but decreased ice time also hurt the individual numbers. Wilson tried to pick his spots as to not overtax his top point earner and Thornton was averaging less than 20 minutes per game, which was not even in the top 100 ice times for skaters.
 
Lately his rise in production has coincided with his rise in minutes as Thornton skated just under 24 minutes Monday against the Avalanche. All things considered, Wilson says this season may include fewer points for Thornton, but that could be about all where Thornton is falling short from his Sharks debut.
 
“He could be having a better year than he did last year," said Wilson.
 
And when Thornton is going, the Sharks power play, already ranked first in the League in both home and road efficiency, is lethal.
 
Thornton leads the NHL in power play points with 36 and San Jose has scored 19 power-play goals over its last seven games (19/37 for 51.4%), the highest total of man-advantage goals over a seven-game span in a single season by any NHL team since the Blackhawks scored 20 over seven games in Nov. 1987.
 
Still, it is not the individual stats Thornton is concerned with.
 
“It’s never about the points,” said Thornton, who is looking for his first Stanley Cup Championship. “It’s about wins.”
 
And those are coming too. If the Sharks can take care of their two games in hand, Team Teal, who once trailed Anaheim by 12 points, could be within four points of the Western Conferences’ best record which would hopefully be a prelude to being the best team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
 
No. 10 and No. 97
Patrick Marleau will wear No. 10 at the upcoming All-Star game and Thornton will don No. 97. Thornton’s No. 19 will be worn by Joe Sakic, while Marleau’s No. 12 will be worn by Brian Rolston. Both Sakic and Rolston have seniority over their younger counterparts who graciously agreed to switch their numbers.
 
The irony is that Marleau hoped for years to wear No. 10 in San Jose, before finally settling in with No. 12. Now he gets his favorite number one the NHL’s biggest stages. Thornton is no stranger to No. 97 as the reigning MVP wore the number in Torino at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
 
NEXT GAME
San Jose will return to the HP Pavilion Ice Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. against Phoenix. A limited number of tickets are available at the HP Pavilion Box Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The game will be aired on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.
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