Sharks' Joe Thornton likely out 'several weeks' with MCL injury
Veteran forward 2nd in team scoring with 36 points in 47 games
San Jose's pursuit of the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights became more challenging Wednesday.
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told reporters that veteran centre Joe Thornton would miss at least two weeks and likely "several weeks" with medial collateral ligament damage in his right knee. The NHL team is awaiting MRI results.
"Our policy is if it's more than two weeks, we let you know," he said.
The 38-year-old Thornton was injured with 40 seconds left in regulation of Tuesday night's 5-4 overtime loss to visiting Winnipeg when teammate Mikkel Boedker fell on his leg as he was tumbling to the ice.
"You knew something was wrong when you saw his face on the ice," Sharks alternate captain Logan Couture told reporters. "That guy doesn't leave a hockey game unless something's very hurt."
Thornton is second to defenceman Brent Burns in Sharks' scoring this season with 13 goals and 36 points in 47 games, including a team-high seven power-play goals. San Jose has a 17-1-3 record this season when Thornton finds the scoresheet.
"We have a much better chance with him in the lineup," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said of Thornton following Tuesday's loss, "but if he's going to miss a little of time, someone's going to have to step up and get the job done."
A native of London, Ont., Thornton has been quite durable in his career, having played fewer than 79 games of a 82-game NHL campaign just six times in his previous 19 seasons.
After last season, Thornton had major surgery on his left knee after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament and MCL. He returned at training camp in September, less than five months after the prodedure.
Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer insisted Thornton could still provide leadership from the sidelines.
"He's going to be around the [dressing] room," said DeBoer. "But this isn't just about Joe Thornton. We have a great leadership group, it starts with our captain Joe Pavelski."
Thornton, who is making $8 million US on a one-year contract, is second among active NHL players in points with 1,427, trailing only Calgary's Jaromir Jagr (1,921). He is also 12th on the league's all-time assists list with 1,030.
San Jose (26-14-7) will enter Thursday's game against the New York Rangers nine points behind the expansion Golden Knights (32-11-4) in the Pacific.