SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – Until Joe Thornton finds a place to live in the Bay Area, the San Jose Sharks’ newest center will crash with family.

“We’ve got a spare room, and he can come and go as he pleases,” said left wing Scott Thornton, Joe’s cousin and new linemate. “He won’t have to worry about a hotel, and he’ll get a few home-cooked meals from my wife. He’s bigger than me, though, so I can’t lay down the law too much.”

The Sharks hope the rest of the Western Conference has a similar experience.

With Thornton and captain Patrick Marleau centering their top two lines, the Sharks have a whole new look that’s difficult to match or defend. And if the early results are any indication, the brawny forward could be just what the Sharks need to turn around a disappointing start.

San Jose won the final two games of its road trip after acquiring the NHL’s seventh-leading scorer from Boston on Wednesday for forwards Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau and defenseman Brad Stuart.

The Sharks beat Buffalo 5-0 on Friday to snap a 10-game losing streak, followed by a come-from-behind, 5-4 victory in Toronto. Thornton had two assists in each of his first two games.

Thornton went through his first full practice with his new teammates Monday, still centering his cousin and Jonathan Cheechoo during workouts at the Sharks’ training complex. He’s expected to get a raucous welcome Tuesday night when he makes his home debut at the Shark Tank against the Atlanta Thrashers.

Though initially stung and disappointed by the trade, Thornton quickly has warmed to the idea – both during the Sharks’ revitalizing wins on the road, and then on a Sunday tour of the snow-free South Bay with his cousin and defenseman Scott Hannan.

“I’ve got no problems with the weather,” Thornton said, a brand-new Sharks cap on his head as he removed his pads at his new locker. “But it’s really about being on the ice, and that’s where I really like us. I like the way we work in practice, and I like the support from the whole team. It’s been great so far.”

Thornton made an impact from his first shift in Buffalo, when he clanged a shot off the post – and though Cheechoo reaped two goals off Thornton’s passes, the biggest beneficiary might have been Marleau. Free from the constant pressure of lining up against every opponent’s top defensive players, Marleau scored six points in those two victories to earn NHL player of the week honors.

“You can already see that Patty is freed up a little more,” coach Ron Wilson said. “We did give up a lot to get Joe, but this is a trade that’s going to give a lot of people an opportunity to shine and do things they haven’t done. He’s everything I thought he was.”

What’s more, the 6-foot-4 center – “That seems a little low to me,” Wilson quipped – is a valuable intimidator on a team that’s been missing injured enforcer Scott Parker all season.

“He brings a lot of respect to our team,” Scott Thornton said. “I think other teams are going to have to back off a little bit more, and then the combination of him and Patty on our power play is going to be great.”

The Sharks clearly needed something to spark their somnolent season. Picked by many to be among the West’s elite teams, the Sharks stumbled to an 8-12-4 start, falling behind early and scrambling to catch up in nearly every game.

Scoring was the biggest problem: San Jose managed just 63 goals in its first 24 games, among the NHL’s lowest totals. With Thornton, who’s had five straight 20-goal seasons, the Sharks already feel a growing confidence in their ability to score consistently.

“It definitely opens up a lot of things that you don’t think about before you have a guy like Joe,” said Alyn McCauley, who scored two goals in Toronto. “It affects everybody out there.”

Now that he’s endured the travel torture of a typical road trip for a Western Conference road trip, complete with a 5 a.m. landing after a six-hour flight from Toronto, Thornton has some time to get used to his new surroundings. The Sharks play three home games in the next five days, followed by a five-day break before another home game.

“Every day, I think I’ll get more comfortable,” Thornton said. “I think we’re going to start playing some great hockey right now.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.