The Sharks will be without center Joe Thornton, their second-leading scorer, for "several weeks" after he sustained an injury to his right MCL on Tuesday, general manager Doug Wilson told reporters at Sharks Ice on Wednesday.
"We're gonna get an MRI today on his knee. It was not the knee he injured last year," Wilson said.
"We'll wait until some of the swelling goes down, but it looks like he's going to be out for several weeks anyhow."
The team is unsure if Thornton will need surgery, and is awaiting further updates, according to Wilson.
In the final minute of regulation during San Jose's 5-4 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, Thornton's knee buckled in an awkward collision with teammate Mikkel Boedker in the neutral zone. Thornton skated to the bench under his own power, and headed straight to the Sharks dressing room.
Last season, Thornton partially tore the MCL and ACL in his left knee. The injury required offseason surgery, but Thornton played in San Jose's last four playoff games during a six-game, first round loss to the Edmonton Oilers, and was a full participant at the beginning of training camp following offseason rehab.
Thornton played through injury earlier this season, too. He missed a couple of practices in November, but did not miss a game, with an injury that Thornton and Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters was unrelated to his left knee.
"The bad news is the injury. The good news is he's a unique individual," Wilson told reporters. "He knows how to address injuries and rehab, and all that.
"All injuries are different, so [I think] the mental approach to injuries like this is his strength, and we'll just see what the next few weeks brings."
With health on his slide, Thornton scored 26 points in his last 28 games after scoring 10 in his first 19. Thornton's six goals in January are tied for the eighth-most in the league.
Wilson said the team will need the rest of the roster to bear more responsibility in Thornton's absence.
"[Thornton's] such an inspirational guy. What he's done is I think he's kind of inspired a lot of those other guys to step up," Wilson said. "And now they need to step up even more."
"I think we're set up. No team likes to lose a player like this for any period of time. And as I say, Joe is so inspirational to all of us that I think it's an opportunity for some people to follow his lead."
Entering Wednesday, the Sharks held a three-point cushion on the Pacific Division's second playoff spot, which means they'd have home ice advantage in the first round if the postseason began today. Wilson told reporters that San Jose's approach to the Feb. 26 trade deadline will "probably not" change in light of Thornton's injury.
"But don't hold me to that," he quickly added. "You never know what comes available as you go forward."
Last season, the Sharks and Thornton disclosed his injury differently. Perhaps because he was hurt just three games before the postseason began, DeBoer told reporters that Thornton, and then-injured center Logan Couture, were "day-to-day" and that he "[expected] both of them back at some point."
Thornton himself initially told reporters there was "no doubt" he'd play in Game 1 of the Sharks' first round series against the Oilers, only to say he was "day-to-day" the day before the series began.
Wilson told reporters on Wednesday that it was club policy to disclose if a player was expected to miss more than two weeks. Thornton returned to San Jose's lineup 14 days after injuring his left knee in April.