Joe Thornton hasn’t missed a game in more than four years, an impressive run that San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan doesn’t find too surprising given Thornton’s work ethic.
That streak appears to be in jeopardy, though.
Thornton is a game-time decision Saturday night as host San Jose looks to win a fifth straight meeting with the slumping St. Louis Blues.
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The 35-year-old Thornton has played in 319 consecutive games, a streak that began Nov. 11, 2010, after he served a two-game suspension for a hit on then-St. Louis forward David Perron. He hasn’t sat out due to injury since missing three games with a lower-body injury in late March of that same year.
Thornton, who is riding a four-game point streak and has two goals and nine assists over his last nine, left Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Anaheim clutching his shoulder after a first-period collision with Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner and didn’t return.
"We’ve got a couple of days before we play again," McLellan said after the game. "I know (Thornton) pretty well. He won’t be out very long."
Thornton was a full participant in Friday’s practice but did not speak to the media regarding his status. McLellan praised the veteran center but said he didn’t want to risk further injury to Thornton if he isn’t feeling 100 percent.
Thornton assisted on Joe Pavelski’s goal before suffering the injury as the Sharks (20-13-5) ended a three-game losing streak. Pavelski added a power-play goal in the third before Logan Couture scored an empty netter.
"Discipline, composure," McLellan said of his club’s effort. "I thought we had a dose of it when we needed it. They put us on the power play for almost 13 minutes, and that certainly worked to our advantage – not only scoring, but also took away from their ability to attack and wear them out a little bit that way."
Antti Niemi improved to 8-1-1 with a 2.19 goals-against average over his last 10 with 28 saves.
"He is one of the best goalies in the league,” forward Tommy Wingels said. ”He was seeing pucks, and he had really good rebound control."
Niemi has made each start during San Jose’s four-game winning streak against the Blues while posting a 2.23 GAA, including an 18-save effort as Brent Burns scored in overtime for a 3-2 victory Dec. 20.
That defeat was the second for St. Louis (22-13-3) during its current 1-5-1 stretch. It has lost the first two of a four-game road trip after falling 4-3 to Anaheim on Friday.
Kevin Shattenkirk and Alexander Steen had a goal and an assist apiece for the Blues, who have lost five straight on the road – their longest road losing streak since dropping seven in a row from Dec. 3, 2008-Jan. 2, 2009.
"There are a couple games we’re not happy with, but I feel like we took a step forward despite the loss," Shattenkirk said. "Now it’s an opportunity for us to answer it in San Jose. It’s a back-to-back and we’re traveling, but this is no time for excuses. This is a tough time in our season."
Brian Elliott is in line to get the start in this contest after Martin Brodeur made 29 saves Friday. Elliott missed 14 games with a lower-body injury before making 44 saves in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to Nashville.
He won five straight starts against the Sharks, including the postseason, before giving up four goals on 12 shots in one period of a 6-3 loss the last time he faced them Nov. 29, 2013.