Sharks center Joe Thornton left the team’s five-game road trip Saturday and has been placed on injured reserve, the team officially announced Sunday. The news was first reported by Paul Gackle of the San Jose Mercury News.
Thornton experienced swelling in his surgically repaired knee following the Sharks' 3-2 overtime win over the Kings on Friday night in Los Angeles. A timetable hasn't yet been set for his return, though he reportedly could rejoin the team at the tail end of their road trip.
“He had a little bit of swelling after the last game, and rather than continue on the road and risk anything with it, we’re going to take the safe route and get him home and get it looked at,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told the Mercury News on Sunday.
It's still unclear why Thornton’s knee swelled up after Friday night’s game, given Thornton skated through training camp and preseason without any reported setbacks.
“There wasn’t a play or anything,” DeBoer said. “There’s just some swelling in there that they wanted to look at because they don’t want it to get worse.”
Through two games in the regular season, Thornton has registered one assist and averaged 15:56 in ice time.
Those two games were Thornton's first since he tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee on Jan. 23 against the Winnipeg Jets. He went under the knife two days later, and returned to skate with the team in March.
The 39-year-old traveled with the Sharks during the postseason, and he even warmed up before games until San Jose was eliminated in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but he told reporters he would have needed more time before being able to suit up in a game.
Thornton suffered the same injury in his left knee in the previous season. He missed the final three games of the regular season, and two in the playoffs, before returning to the lineup in Game 3 of the Sharks' first-round loss to the Edmonton Oilers. He had surgery over the summer, but he returned to the team for training camp. The veteran center slowly worked his way back, scoring 15 points in 23 games through the end of November before scoring 21 in his final 24.
In light of the injury, Dylan Gambrell has been called up from the San Jose Barracuda. Gambrell tallied two goals and an assist in the AHL team’s season-opening game Friday night in San Jose. The University of Denver product made his NHL debut with the Sharks late last season, playing in three games before the playoffs.
Melker Karlsson, who has played on the Sharks' fourth line for the first two games of the regular season, reportedly skated in Thornton’s place on the top line with Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier.