Programming note: Sharks-Blues coverage starts today at 4:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California with Sharks Pregame Live.
ST. LOUIS – Joe Thornton’s injured left shoulder is improving, but he’ll miss his fourth straight game when the Sharks face off against the Blues at Scottrade Center on Thursday night.
Thornton, who took part in the pregame skate, spoke publicly for the first time since he was hurt on Dec. 31 in Anaheim.
“The first couple days nothing changed, and then now it feels a little bit better, so that’s a good sign, I guess,” he said. “Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get up, and it’s much better, and play Saturday. That’s what I’m hoping right now.”
San Jose hosts Dan Boyle and the New York Rangers on Saturday.
When Thornton missed last Saturday’s home game against St. Louis, it ended a personal 319-game iron man streak, the third longest in franchise history. The center hadn’t missed a game due to injury since April 2, 2010.
The 35-year-old admitted that he takes pride in remaining in the lineup despite the bumps and bruises that come during the grind of an NHL season.
“I think all hockey players are kind of like that,” he said. “It just sucks being injured, you know? The worst part is just getting [bag skated]. I hate that, so you try to play through everything, to be honest. It sucks, and hopefully I’ll get back soon.”
The Sharks’ first game without Thornton in more than four years was ugly, as the Blues cruised to a 7-2 win at SAP Center on Jan. 3. Since then, the team has responded with thrilling wins in Winnipeg and Minnesota.
Watching the team cope without him makes it easier.
“When they win it’s like, OK, you don’t have to really stress so much because the guys are doing so good. Hopefully they keep winning and my shoulder gets better and we’ll go from there,” he said.
As the same time, Thornton said it’s difficult to watch the games in the dressing room with video coordinator Brett Heimlich.
“Way harder – you’re nervous,” Thornton said. “Out there you kind of control what you do, but in here, you seem to be rooting and you’re on the edge of your seat like a fan. It’s definitely different.”
Although they’ve gained four of a possible six points, one area of the Sharks’ game where Thornton is sorely missed is the power play. The Sharks are just 1-for-17 with a man advantage in the last three games.
“Our rhythm, our timing, our passing, our execution in those situations hasn’t been anywhere that it needs to be regardless of Joe in the lineup or not,” Todd McLellan said.