Humboldt Beacon (http://www.humboldtbeacon.com)

Joe Thornton has surgery on right MCL, no timetable for return. So what now?


By Curtis Pashelka, Bay Area News Group

Friday, January 26, 2018

SAN JOSE — Sharks center Joe Thornton has shocked everyone before when it came to returning sooner than expected from a serious knee injury. This time, though, no one knows when he might be able play again.
Thornton is out indefinitely after he underwent arthroscopic surgery Thursday to address an issue with his injured right medial collateral ligament, the Sharks announced just prior to the start of the team’s game with the New York Rangers.
The latest update did not give an exact timetable for when Thornton might resume skating or playing, although Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said Wednesday that Thornton’s injury would cause him miss “several weeks.”
Thornton had an MRI on his right knee Wednesday, and underwent an additional medical evaluation Thursday afternoon.
Thornton’s MCL injury occurred in the late stages of Tuesday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets, as he collided with Sharks forward Mikkel Boedker near center ice with roughly 44 seconds left in the third period.
Whether the latest news on Thornton heightens the Sharks’ need to add a player between now and the Feb. 26 NHL trade deadline remains to be seen. Wilson didn’t rule it out Wednesday, saying, “Probably not. But don’t hold me to that. You never know what becomes available as you go forward.”
The Sharks were already in the market for a fourth line center. But with Thornton, still the team’s emotional leader at age 38, out for an indefinite period, Wilson will almost assuredly explore options for how to bolster his club for the playoff drive, depending on how it performs in the coming weeks.
The Sharks entered Thursday alone in second place in the Pacific Division with 59 points, just two points ahead of both Calgary and Los Angeles. Colorado, which holds the second and final wild card spot in the Western Conference, also has 57 points.
Last April 2, Thornton suffered torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee in a game against Vancouver. Two weeks later, with the extent of the damage not yet publicly known, he returned to suit up for the final four playoff games of the Sharks’ first round series against the Edmonton Oilers.
Thornton had surgery April 24, two days after the Sharks were eliminated by the Oilers in six games.
Thornton signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Sharks on July 2, 2017 and is slated once again to become and unrestricted free agent in July.
Now after 12-plus seasons with the Sharks, Thornton remains as vital as ever.
Entering Thursday, Thornton was second on the Sharks with 36 points and third with 23 assists. He has 18 power play points this season, tied for 12th most in the NHL as the Sharks rank fifth in the NHL with the man advantage at 22.9 percent.
Among Sharks forwards, Thornton is second in average time on ice at 18:21. This season when Thornton has at least one point in a game, the Sharks are 19-5-3.
For the start of Thursday’s game against the Rangers, the Sharks’ last before the start of the NHL all-star break, coach Pete DeBoer has Joe Pavelski from right wing to center on the top line. Boedker took Pavelski’s spot on the right side with Timo Meier on the left.
The Sharks’ second line of center Logan Couture and wingers Tomas Hertl remained intact.
Joonas Donskoi, who had missed the last two games with the flu, was back on the third line with fellow winger Melker Karlsson and center Chris Tierney, and the fourth line had Barclay Goodrow at center with Marcus Sorensen and Joel Ward on the wings. With Thornton going on injured reserve, Sorensen was recalled from the Barracuda on Wednesday.
“You don’t fill in for a player whose a Hall of Fame player and one of the best passers of all time,” DeBoer said Thursday morning. “It’s by committee we have to fill that void, and it’s got to be done in different ways than obviously he did it.”
? Goalie Troy Grosenick remained the backup to starter Aaron Dell as Martin Jones was still not ready to dress for a game. DeBoer said Jones “was probably healthy enough to play tonight, but we’d be pushing it. So we might as well take advantage of the time that we have here, use the all-star break, and he’ll be back ready to go after the break.”