Signs point to Thornton's return for Game 3 of Sharks-Oilers

Signs point to Thornton's return for Game 3 of Sharks-Oilers

SAN JOSE – There appears to be some confusion on just who makes the final call on Joe Thornton’s playing status for Sunday’s pivotal Game 3 between the Sharks and Oilers at SAP Center.

Coach Pete DeBoer said it’s Thornton’s decision, while Thornton said it’s DeBoer’s decision. Or, maybe it’s the training staff’s decision, according to the longtime centerman.

Regardless, signs are pointing towards Thornton playing for the first time since he hurt his left knee on April 2. Thornton went through what was his normal late-season game day routine on Sunday morning, skating for about 15 minutes before most of his teammates went on the ice for the optional skate.

That was much different than on Friday in Edmonton, when Thornton stayed on the ice for over an hour with the scratched players before missing his second straight playoff game and fifth straight overall.

“After yesterday with the day off, wanted something light,” Thornton said. “Just kind of feel a little bit fresher today. Hopefully it responds good and I’ll be able to play tonight.”

DeBoer said: “He’s a game-time decision. If he’s taking warm-up that’s another step, and we’ll see how he feels when he gets out there.”

While the Sharks have missed Thornton on the ice in games one and two, they’ve likely missed his emotion on the bench, too. On Sunday morning, captain Joe Pavelski pointed to the Sharks’ compete level not being high enough in Game 2, a 2-0 loss.

“Just lost too many battles,” Pavelski said.

DeBoer had an interesting take when asked about what Thornton brings to the Sharks’ bench.

“It’s old school accountability with Joe. It’s black and white. He came up in an era and at a time and around people who weren’t worried about hurting feelings. You said what needed to be said,” DeBoer said. 

“That’s not always the case now in modern dressing rooms and with modern athletes. He’s a great resource for us, because there’s no greater pressure than peer pressure, especially from a Hall of Fame guy like that.”

Although the Sharks power play during the regular season was generally poor, finishing 25th in the NHL, it reached a nadir in Game 2 without one of the game’s best all-time passers. San Jose went 0-for-6, allowing two shorthanded goals and actually getting outshot by Edmonton, 6-5.

Five-on-five play wasn’t much better, as the Sharks managed just 11 even strength shots.

“We miss him everywhere,” DeBoer said. “I think you can’t understate his importance to our group.” 

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip


NEWARK, N.J. — Martin Jones made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and 16th overall in the San Jose Sharks' 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi scored and Justin Braun had two assists to help the Sharks open a five-game East Coast trip.

Keith Kinkaid, the top goalie for New Jersey with Cory Schneider on injured reserve, stopped 30 shots as the Devils' three-game winning streak came to an end.

The Devils couldn't muster a strong push in the later stages against the rested Sharks. It was New Jersey's second game two nights following a 5-4 overtime victory in Ottawa. And it showed against the Sharks, who played a solid road game, pressed their advantage and solidly supported Jones.

Karlsson scored the lone goal of the opening period at 14:11 on a close-in shot following a slick behind-the-net setup pass from Tomas Hertl.

The shots were 13 for each team in the evenly played period. The Devils came close on several occasions as former Shark Mirco Mueller and Blake Coleman both hit the crossbar and Jones robbed Drew Stafford on a dead-on drive from the slot.

Pavelski and Donskoi got second-period goals as the Sharks steadily tightened their grip on the game.

Pavelski tipped in Braun's point shot at 5:49. Joe Thornton got the second assist, his 1,395th point, to pass Luc Robitaille for 21st on the career list.

Donskoi backhanded a rebound shot with 1:10 left in the period in which the Sharks outshot the Devils 11-6.

The remaining drama centered on Jones' shutout bid.

NOTES: The Devils placed Schneider on injured reserve Friday with a lower-body injury and recalled Scott Wedgewood from Binghamton of the American Hockey League to serve as Kinkaid's backup. ... Mueller, a healthy scratch in three of the previous four games, returned for the Devils to face the Sharks, the team that drafted him in the first round, for the first time. He was dealt to New Jersey over the summer.


Sharks: At the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

Devils: Host Ottawa on Friday night.

As Joakim Ryan returns home, Sharks reunite with a former top prospect


As Joakim Ryan returns home, Sharks reunite with a former top prospect

When Joakim Ryan suits up in his first NHL road game against the New Jersey Devils Friday night, he’ll do so in a familiar place.

Ryan, a New Jersey-born Swede, played for the Devils’ youth program and nearby Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) in high school. In fact, he’s already played at the Prudential Center, skating in the state championship game with CBA in 2009.

He’s not the only one due for something of a homecoming, as the Sharks may see a familiar face line up on the opposing blueline.

This is the Sharks’ first matchup against New Jersey since trading 2013 first round pick Mirco Mueller ahead of June’s Expansion Draft. Mueller was once considered the future on the San Jose blueline, a smooth-skating defenseman with size to boot.

The Swiss defender never fulfilled his potential, in part because his development was rushed from the start. He made the NHL roster as a rookie in 2014-15, almost by default. Other than Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the only defensemen ahead of him on left side of the depth chart were a far past-his-prime Scott Hannan and regular scratch Matt Irwin. Such was the nature of the Sharks’ “step back” that year.

Mueller finally got regular playing time, albeit in the minors, during his second professional season. By then, he was pushed down the organizational depth chart by the team’s acquisitions of Brenden Dillon and Roman Polak, and the development of Dylan DeMelo. David Schlemko’s signing last summer kept Mueller there for most of 2016-17, but it was Ryan and Tim Heed that ensured Mueller’s NHL future would lie elsewhere. The Swedes surpassed him, and emerged as perhaps the AHL’s best defensive pair in the process.

It’s fitting, then, that Ryan and Heed will be in the lineup tonight, and Mueller may not, as the fresh start he needed hasn’t quite panned out. He’s averaging a career-high 18:44 in ice time, but has been scratched in three of New Jersey’s seven games, including Thursday night’s overtime win in Ottawa.

So Ryan comes home to New Jersey under much happier circumstances than Mueller will reunite with the Sharks. One prodigal son returns, and the other is simply trying to save face.

It’s still early in his Devils tenure, of course, and Mueller may yet emerge as a regular on the New Jersey blueline. His Sharks reunion, though, will serve as a reminder of what once was, what could have been, and what is now San Jose’s future on defense.