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Sharks coach Todd McLellan expects Joe Thornton to play Game 5

Joe Thornton

San Jose Sharks’ Joe Thornton looks on during an optional team practice in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Monday, May 16, 2011. The Sharks and the Vancouver Canucks are scheduled to play Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference finals on Wednesday. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)


The last 24 hours have been tough and fascinating in the life of Joe Thornton. During the Sharks Game 4 loss to Vancouver, Thornton was crushed by a huge open ice hit by Canucks forward Raffi Torres. The hit forced Thornton off the ice for the remainder of the game and put his status in doubt for Game 5 tomorrow night in Vancouver.

Late last night, Thornton said he’d be “100% ready” to go in Game 5 and today Sharks coach todd McLellan says that he’s expecting Jumbo Joe to be out there as well.

McLellan’s statement on Thornton comes off as something out of a movie and for the Sharks captain who’s played his best postseason hockey in his career in these playoffs, what his coach says about him stands out even more.

“When Joe Thornton comes to you and tells you he’s playing, he’s playing,” McLellan said. “That can happen in exhibition season, that can happen at St. Thomas at a charity game in the middle of the summer, so expect Jumbo to play tomorrow.”

We talked about Thornton’s playoff history of playing through injury last night and him playing hurt is nothing new. It’s also nothing new for most guys in the playoffs that play through all sorts of bumps and bruises. Thornton’s injury in Game 4 was very obvious that it was around his shoulder and it’ll be worth watching to see how it affects his play both in his physical game and his ability to take draws, shoot, and pass.

If Thornton is playing at half-speed that’s no good given how well Vancouver’s played against them. Then again, Thornton’s main duty in the playoffs has seen him shadowing Ryan Kesler and Kesler’s been quiet this round. The offense is what they’ll need to keep seeing out of Thornton in assisting Patrick Marleau. If Thornton can’t do that, the blame for failing may wrongly fall on Thornton’s shoulders regardless of how hurt he is.