When San Jose’s Joe Thornton takes the ice against his former team on Saturday night for only the second time since a blockbuster trade in 2005, he may hope to play a little longer than 2:31.
Thornton and the Sharks open their home schedule at HP Pavilion against the Boston Bruins, who are wrapping up a season-opening five-game road swing through the Pacific Division.
Thornton was expected to be the cornerstone of the Bruins after being the first overall selection of the 1997 draft, but he produced his only 100-point season for them in 2002-03. A tailspin in November 2005 that saw Boston lose eight of nine games resulted in Thornton being traded to San Jose (2-1-1) for left wing Marco Sturm, defenseman Brad Stuart and center Wayne Primeau.
In 144 games since that swap, Thornton leads the league with 165 assists and 209 points—reigning MVP Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh is second with 196 points over that span. Meanwhile, only Sturm remains with the Bruins (2-2-0) as Staurt is with Los Angeles and Primeau is playing for Calgary.
Thornton faced his old team on Jan. 10, 2006, in Boston, but saw less than three minutes of ice time. The 6-foot-5 center received a major and a game misconduct for checking 6-foot-7 defenseman Hal Gill from behind 5:13 into the first period of San Jose’s 6-2 win.
“I was excited about coming back,” Thornton said afterward. “It was unfortunate I couldn’t play the whole game.”
This season, Thornton is tied with Milan Michalek and Jeremy Roenick for the team lead with two goals, and tied with Michalek for second with three points— one behind defenseman Craig Rivet. Thornton was held without a point for the second straight game on Wednesday, but Michalek scored his second power-play goal of the contest with 3:31 to play as San Jose rallied to defeat Chicago 2-1.
Roenick, who signed a one-year deal with San Jose on Sept. 4 after sending a text message to a Philadelphia newspaper earlier in the summer saying he was retiring, needs three goals to become the 40th player with 500. The Boston native, though, has just eight goals in 32 career games versus the Bruins.
San Jose has two wins and a tie in its last three home openers. The Sharks posted 25 of their Western Conference high-tying 51 wins last season at home.
The Bruins, meanwhile, have a chance to end their road swing with a winning record. Phil Kessel had his first career trick as Boston defeated the Kings 8-6 on Friday to record its first win in Los Angeles since October 2003 and third in a row there overall.
Boston, which had scored five goals total in its first three games, tallied eight on the road for the first time since Feb. 4, 2002, against Columbus.
The fifth overall pick in 2006, Kessel scored 11 goals and added 18 assists in 70 games during a rookie year that was interrupted by testicular cancer surgery.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Kessel, last season’s Bill Masterton Trophy winner. “It was one of those nights. I got lucky on a couple. … We had eight goals, which was good for our offense, but we’ve got to clean up the defense. Giving up six goals doesn’t cut it.”
Marc Savard, who came back for the Bruins after missing Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim with groin strain, tallied a goal and four assists. It was the fourth career five-point game for Savard, who led Boston with 74 assists and 96 points last season.
“I knew it was there at times, but you just battle through it. Hopefully it feels good (Saturday) morning so I can go (Saturday) night,” said Savard, who has only two goals and nine assists in 15 career games versus the Sharks.
Boston has dropped three straight in San Jose since October 1999. The Bruins open their home schedule on Thursday night against Tampa Bay.