Hockey Night In Canada Stanley Cup Playoffs 2011

Thornton injury makes San Jose task tougher

Categories: San Jose Sharks, VAN vs. SJS, Vancouver Canucks

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San Jose captain Joe Thornton suffered an injury late in Game 4, the latest blow for the reeling Sharks. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) San Jose captain Joe Thornton suffered an injury late in Game 4, the latest blow for the reeling Sharks. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Topic A through T on Monday was the condition of Joe Thornton's right shoulder for Game 5 of the Western Conference final in Vancouver.

More specifically, since the San Jose Sharks are guarding this news with considerably more stalwartness than they demonstrated Sunday, how long and how well will his condition allow the centre to play?

Thornton left the game, which Vancouver won 4-2 on the strength of an unprecedented three 5-on-3 goals in a span of 115 seconds, halfway through the third period. He was drilled by Vancouver's Raffi Torres on a shoulder-to-shoulder hit that some thought might have merited a penalty. It rightfully didn't, but Thornton doubled over and was led to the dressing room, where he remained.

Thornton was to be kept from the media during both of San Jose's availabilities today, in the morning in San Jose and in the late afternoon in Vancouver, but he texted the San Jose Mercury News' Mark Emmons Sunday saying in response to a question that he would indeed play in Game 5.

Coach Todd McLellan said Monday Thornton would play, as well.

That raises the question of his effectiveness. He has consistently been San Jose's best player at both ends of the ice throughout the postseason, delivering a captain's burden with noticeable forbearance. Without him at 100 per cent, one can reasonably wonder whether Patrick Marleau, who came out of his shell late in the Detroit series and has scored a point in every game against the Canucks, and Devin Setoguchi, who has been hard to find of late, can cope with either a different centre or the same centre at less than his best.

Those, though, remain open questions, as do any personnel changes for Game 5. The Sharks need to make sure they're not shell-shocked by Sunday first.

Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Devin Setoguchi
Ryane Clowe-Logan Couture-Dany Heatley
Torrey Mitchell-Joe Pavelski-Kyle Wellwood
Jamie McGinn-Andrew Desjardins-Jamal Mayers

Douglas Murray-Dan Boyle
Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Niclas Wallin
Kent Huskins-Ian White

Antti Niemi
Antero Niittymaki