Sharks

Sharks' Thornton can follow Marleau, make history in Vancouver

Sharks' Thornton can follow Marleau, make history in Vancouver

SAN JOSE – Three weeks ago, Sharks forward Patrick Marleau made history in Vancouver when he scored his 500th career goal at Rogers Arena on Feb. 2.

His longtime teammate has a chance to make more history on the same ice surface on Saturday. Joe Thornton sits two assists away from becoming just the 13th player in NHL history to reach 1,000 for his career, as the Sharks prepare to resume their post-bye week schedule against the Canucks.

“It’s neat,” Thornton said recently. “It’s something I don’t think growing up or even playing so many years you realize you’re going to hit this milestone. When you see the names – I haven’t really looked at the names yet. I think once it hits I’ll kind of peek and see who’s on that list. It’s a nice accomplishment, I guess.”

Thornton, of course, has helped make goal scorers out of many different teammates throughout his career in Boston and San Jose. Marleau has scored 120 goals in which Thornton registered an assist to top the list, while Joe Pavelski is close behind (111). Jonathan Cheechoo (89 goals assisted by Thornton), Boston’s Glen Murray (70) and Brent Burns (50) have also benefited from being on the ice at the same time as the best player in Sharks franchise history.

“I’ve been lucky to play with so many goal scorers,” Thornton said. “For a guy that passes the puck a lot, you need guys to finish. I’ve been lucky enough ever since I’ve been here in San Jose, and really my whole career. … I’ve had so many good goal scorers that it helps you get to that point.”

Logan Couture gave Thornton more credit than he was willing to give himself. 

“You look over the years – Cheechoo, [Devin Setoguchi], now Pav. He finds guys in the slot," Couture said. "Obviously he’s made some tremendous passes over the years, and guys have put it in the back of the net. … The way he’s able to kind of take a quick peek out of the corner of his eye and find someone and deliver it through feet and sticks and all that stuff, it’s pretty special.”

Thornton is currently 23rd all-time in scoring in NHL history with 1,380 points. He would be just the second player in to debut during the 1990s to reach 1,000 career assists, joining Florida’s Jaromir Jagr. He could eclipse Joe Sakic (1,016 assists) for 12th place on the all-time assist list before the season is through, and is 43 helpers away from breaking into the top 10 (Marcel Dionne, 1,040).

In 60 games this season, Thornton has five goals and 34 assists for 39 points. He has recorded multiple assists in a game six times this season, with the most recent occurrence on Jan. 18 in Los Angeles.

Although he’s off his scoring pace from last season, when he had 82 points in 82 games and finished fifth in voting for the Hart Trophy, Thornton has admitted that this season has been a grind for him. The 37-year-old is coming off of a short summer, helping the Sharks reach their first-ever Stanley Cup Final, and helped Canada win the World Cup of Hockey in September, too.

He’ll be a player to watch coming out of the bye week, which he was looking forward to.

“For me, it’s nice. It’s going to be a nice little break before our last [22] games and our postseason,” he said last week." I think it kind of fits in perfect for us. Get our rest, and get ready for the sprint.”

In 56 career regular season games against the Canucks, Thornton has 16 goals and 48 assists for 64 points.

Sharks clinch spot in NHL playoffs, thanks to Avalanche win over Wild

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USATSI

Sharks clinch spot in NHL playoffs, thanks to Avalanche win over Wild

For the fourth consecutive season, Peter DeBoer has guided the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Thanks to the Colorado Avalanche's 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night, the Sharks became the second team in the Western Conference to secure a playoff spot. The Calgary Flames (45-21-7), whom the Sharks (43-22-8) trail by three points for first place in the Pacific Division, were the first. 

The Sharks lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round last year. If the playoffs started today, second-seeded San Jose would match up with third-seeded Vegas in the first round.

[RELATED: 'Concerned' Sharks can't look too far in future after loss to Vegas]

DeBoer took over as Sharks coach in 2015 after the franchise ended a 10-year run of making the playoffs. The Sharks made it to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season, but they haven't advanced past the second round since.

The franchise also seeks its first Pacific Division crown since the 2010-11 season. A division banner would be the first of DeBoer's career as an NHL head coach.

'Concerned' Sharks can't look too far into future after loss to Vegas

'Concerned' Sharks can't look too far into future after loss to Vegas

SAN JOSE – Monday night’s contest between the Sharks and Golden Knights was billed as a potential playoff preview. So naturally, when San Jose lost 7-3, there were questions as to how concerned the team was about possibly having to play Vegas in the first round.

But the team was adamant they shouldn’t be looking too far into the future. They believe they need to stay focused on the games at hand, and fix the things that led them to drop three contests in a row – not on who they may play in the postseason.

“You can’t think about that,” Justin Braun said. “You can’t be worried about what you’re doing three weeks from now. You need to get points now.”

Bench boss Peter DeBoer agreed, telling the media afterward that no matchup is necessarily more ideal than another. 

“I don’t think there’s going to be an easy match,” DeBoer admitted. “I don’t think anyone wants to play (Arizona) the way they’re playing now or Dallas or whoever ends up in there. It doesn’t matter once you get in. Everybody you play is going to be a very good and a very good test. So we’re just going to try and win as many games as we can and whoever we get we’ll show up and be ready to play.”

Winning games now means cleaning a few things up on San Jose’s end. They haven’t been happy with how they’ve played in their last three contests, from not having enough energy on one night to making too many mistakes the next.

“I’m concerned, we haven’t played well,” Logan Couture said. “We’re giving up too many chances, too many goals. We’re giving up odd-man rushes. Every time we give them an opportunity like that they’re going to put it in the back of our net.”

Which was primarily the story of Monday’s game against the Golden Knights. The Sharks made too many small mistakes, from turning pucks over in the neutral zone to making too many trips to the penalty box. Couture went so far as to say the Sharks “handed them goals tonight.”

“Some lessons learned tonight that you can’t chase the game, or if you do get behind in a game against that team you’ve got to handle it with a little more composure," DeBoer said. "We knew that, but we shot ourselves in the foot.”

The only thing left to do now is take what went wrong against Vegas and turn it around – particularly on San Jose’s upcoming two-game road trip against the Kings and Ducks down in Southern California.

“It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, you’ve got to keep rolling forward,” Braun said.