SAN JOSE, Calif. — San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton is expected to play a potential elimination game in Game 5 of the Western Conference final despite leaving the previous game with an injury.
Thornton was hurt on a shoulder-to-shoulder check by Raffi Torres in the third period of a 4-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday that put the Sharks in a 3-1 series hole. He did not return to the game and did not take part in an optional practice Monday before the team flew to Vancouver.
But coach Todd McLellan said he expects Thornton to play Tuesday night, even if he is not 100 percent. Thornton was not available to the media on Monday but told McLellan he will be ready to play.
"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 … a charity game in the middle of the summer."
Thornton leads the Sharks with 17 points this postseason and has also done a good job defensively when matched up against the opponent's top line.
The Sharks face long odds to come back in this series after losing three of the first four games. Those odds would have become even more daunting if Thornton was unable to play.
"He's a presence in the locker room," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "Just the presence of having him around is something that we need. We'll see what happens [Tuesday]. He's going to be there. I know that."