Thornton hoping to avoid another lockout

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Thornton hoping to avoid another lockout

SAN JOSE -- For Joe Thornton and a select few San Jose Sharks that are in already back in town, its business as usual at the teams practice facility.

On Thursday at Sharks Ice, Thornton, who spent the majority of his summer in Switzerland and Canada, and new teammate Brad Stuart were the only two players to lace them up in preparation for the upcoming 2012-13 season. The time was generally spent stretching and skating laps, as the pair of veterans work at getting back into playing shape after four months off. Patrick Marleau, Antti Niemi and Thomas Greiss were also in the building, but didnt skate on this day, instead opting for an off-ice workout.

Unfortunately, though, Thornton and the rest of the NHL constituency have to pay as much attention to whats happening off the ice and as what they need to do to on it. The latest round of collective bargaining talks on Thursday in Toronto only provided more pessimism that the season will actually start on time, with commissioner Gary Bettman telling reporters that the two sides remain far apart on key economic issues.

The Sharks are scheduled to open the regular season on Oct. 12 in Anaheim, while training camp starts in less than a month on September 21. The likelihood of those two events actually happening on time seems like a long shot, at best.

The current CBA expires on September 15. A second lockout in the last eight years of business is on the horizon.

And thats not very appealing to the Sharks captain.

After living it the one year and not playing in the NHL, you definitely dont want to do it again. I love to play, its my joy to play hockey. Thats what I love to do, said Thornton.

Last time when they told us we couldnt, it was heartbreaking. But, we still have got a couple weeks left of negotiations. Hopefully, they can figure things out and let us play. It would be a shame if we didnt.

There arent many players still in the league that sacrificed more than the Sharks captain in 2004-05. Thornton had just completed the first year of a three-year, 20 million contract with Boston, meaning he failed to collect almost 7 million in the last lockout. He turned 25 in the summer of 2004, and was just entering the prime of his career. Thornton finished third in the league in scoring in 2002-03 with 101 points, and had 73 points, tied for the 16th in the league, in 2003-04.

RELATED: Joe Thornton career stats 2011-2012 game logs

Its probably safe to assume that certain NHL owners are pinning at least a portion of their hard-line strategy in CBA negotiations on the hope that players like Thornton, and other veterans like Patrick Marleau, Jarome Iginla, Dan Boyle, Marty Brodeur and Daniel Alfredsson to provide some pressure on the rest of the union to make sure the season starts as soon as possible. Another lengthy lockout, along with more lost wages that will never be recovered, wont sit well with players that have already sacrificed so much.

Thornton wasnt willing to go there, not surprisingly, but did articulate that every single player in the union has the opportunity to express his views.

Theres 800 guys in this union, and everybody gets a voice, said Thornton, whos keeping abreast of union matters via text messages, conference calls and the NHLPA website. Everybody understands what happened in 2004. I dont know how many guys or percentage of the union was a part of that, but it was nasty.

There are a lot of relatively new players that havent gone through this and this is the first go round. Theyve got to be informed, and make sure they go to the player meetings and make sure they are in the conference calls to see whats going on, and understand whats going on. Im sure they want to play, and as hockey players, we all want to play.

There was a report last week out of Switzerland that Thornton would return to HC Davos, where he played in 2004-05 and maintains a residence close by, in the event of another long lockout. Thorntons older brother and agent John Thornton shot that down, though, and Joe himself said hes not concerned with relocating just yet, even though its assuredly crossed his mind.

Until they tell me I cant play here, Im not really thinking about anything, he said. Im back here, and planning on starting camp on the 21st. Until they tell me otherwise, Im planning on stepping on the ice and trying to win a Stanley Cup here in San Jose.

My thought process is, were going to start training camp when its supposed to start. Whatever happens after that happens after that, but my focus is playing from the start of this year.

Marleau back to the middle as Sharks deal with no Couture, Haley

Marleau back to the middle as Sharks deal with no Couture, Haley

SAN JOSE – All four of the Sharks’ lines have been in a blender for much of the season. 

Now, with Logan Couture out for at least one game and probably longer, and Micheal Haley getting tagged with a one-game suspension, the coaching staff has no choice but to mix and match the remaining forwards in time for Tuesday’s home game with the Rangers.

They’ll hope it’s the right recipe to snap out of what has been a miserable six-game losing streak in regulation, including the last two in which the Sharks have been outscored 13-3 by Dallas and Nashville.

The most notable player to be shifted is Patrick Marleau, who will apparently be centering the second line against New York. It will be just the fifth game he starts at center this season, and first since Feb. 11 in Philadelphia, when he was filling in for an ill Couture.

Marleau, of course, has played plenty of center over the years, including the second half of last season and first handful of playoff games when he was in the middle of the third line.

“I don’t think there’s been a year where I haven’t played center, so it’s just one of those things, move in and out,” Marleau said. “We’re interchangeable throughout the whole lineup, anyway.”

Marleau has been one of the few effective Sharks players lately, with three of the team’s last five goals. He has 26 goals on the season, third on the team, and is fifth on the Sharks in points with 44.

“Patty is playing great. I don’t think we could ask for more from him,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “Arguably a lot of nights this year he’s been our best forward. He’s playing hard, he’s playing strong. He’s been a real valuable piece for us. We wouldn’t be in the spot we’re in this year without him and the way he’s played this year.”

Marleau is set to skate with Melker Karlsson and Mikkel Boedker, as Karlsson is good to go after missing the last eight games with a lower body injury. The 26-year-old Swede is having a nice season with 19 points (9g, 10a) in 60 games.

The third line featured Tomas Hertl between Joel Ward and Marcus Sorensen, while Chris Tierney will center the fourth line with Timo Meier and Joonas Donskoi.

Karlsson, who confirmed he was ready to return, said: “Cooch is out, and we’ll see how long he’s going to be out, but I’ll do my best. I’m going to work hard, and hopefully can get going here.”

Marleau described Karlsson as “tenacious on the forecheck, causes a lot of turnovers. He’s hungry on that puck. He’s going to get his opportunities, and I’m sure he’ll put a few in the back of the net.”

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Of course, the Sharks don’t care who scores the goals, just as long as it’s someone. It’s been a season-long issue for them to get their depth scorers to do more, and if they want any chance at reclaiming first place in the Pacific Division while Couture is out, that will be a necessity.

Among the players that will bring their scoring woes into Tuesday’s game will be Donskoi (no points 13 games), Hertl (no points in 12 games), Boedker (no points in 10 games), Ward (no points in six games), Sorensen (one assist in 10 games) and Tierney (one goal in 12 games).

Could Couture’s absence be a wake up call for those guys?

“I would hope it doesn’t take an injury to get that. That’s something we’re looking for, it’s something we’ve challenged the group to get more out of them,” DeBoer said. 

“They’re the first guys to recognize they’ve got to give us a little bit more. That’s been an ongoing process. The good news is they’ve all done it before. I feel that they all have the ability to raise their level another notch here before the playoffs. I think they have enough character that we’ll see that.”

Time is growing short, as the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin in a little more than two weeks.

Marleau said: “When you go into playoffs, [secondary scoring] is usually what makes a difference. We need everybody contributing and guys stepping up at different times. We know that in this room, and guys are looking forward to doing that.”

Sharks' Haley suspended one game for punch on Jarnkrok

Sharks' Haley suspended one game for punch on Jarnkrok

SAN JOSE – Sharks forward Micheal Haley has been suspended one game for punching Nashville’s Calle Jarnkrok on Saturday in San Jose’s 7-2 loss, and will miss Tuesday's home game with the Rangers.

After absorbing a borderline hit from behind into the glass by Jarnkrok, Haley tracked down the Predators forward and promptly delivered a left jab to Jarnkrok’s face at 12:56 of the final frame. He received a match penalty for intent to injure on the play.

According to the video released by the league, Haley “was seeking retribution” for the hit by Jarnkrok, who was already being penalized for boarding, and delivered a “forceful punch on an opponent who was not able to defend himself at the time.”

The 30-year-old Haley, who has never been fined or suspended before in his career, gave his perspective of what happened on Monday.

“We were breaking out there and next thing I know I was face first in the glass,” Haley said. “Just emotions [took over]. Kind of scared from the hit and I just went after him. Looked at him right in the eyes. He saw me. By the time I swung at him his face might have turned a bit. When I went at him I saw him clearly look at me, and I thought he knew I was coming.”

Haley expected Jarnkrok to engage him after the Predators forward delivered the bad check.

“I thought it was a pretty dirty hit, and I thought I gave him ample amount of time. I think he [had] enough time to know what I was trying to do, and trying to get him to fight.”

He added: “In hindsight, I wish none of it happened. I wish I didn’t get hit and I wish I didn’t punch him, but it happened. I don’t think I started it. It wasn’t premeditated or anything. If I missed that punch then we probably don’t have this conversation.”

In 54 games this season, Haley has two goals and nine assists for 11 points. His 110 penalty minutes is fifth in the league.