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.”