Sharks’ Thornton will play first game since knee surgery

SAN JOSE — Joe Thornton says there’s “no doubt” that he’ll be in the Sharks lineup Saturday night.

This time, he’s telling the truth.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Thornton will make his return to game action when the Sharks host the Arizona Coyotes at the SAP Center. Thornton will be suiting up just a little more than five months after he underwent surgery to repair the anterior and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee on April 24.

“I’m in. No doubt,” Thornton said when asked if he’d be in the Sharks lineup Saturday. “Let’s go. No messing around, eh?”

Thornton spat out the same words — “no doubt” — that he used when he was asked whether he’d be able to suit up for Game 1 of the Sharks Stanley Cup playoff series with the Edmonton Oilers just three days after he damaged his left knee, downplaying the severity of his injury.

The veteran forward wound up missing the first two games of series and it was eventually revealed that he played four playoff games with tears in his ACL and MCL.

But Sharks coach Pete DeBoer confirmed after the Sharks morning practice Saturday that Thornton will be in the lineup against the Coyotes.

At this point, neither Thornton nor DeBoer knows exactly what to expect from the 38-year-old as he tests out his new knee for the first time in a game setting.

Thornton acknowledged that competing at game speed is different from practice, but he intends to play full minutes, performing all the roles that he will be asked to play during the regular season.

Is his coach on board with that plan?

“I think the game will dictate that,” DeBoer said. “But I’m sure he’ll be giving me the hairy eyeball if I only play him 11 minutes.”

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