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GameDay 60: Lineups, Betting Odds for Panthers at Sharks

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Joe Thornton, here posing at Florida Panthers’ media day before training camp, makes his return to San Jose tonight at SAP Center. — Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

Unless something strange happened between the Florida Panthers practice on Monday afternoon and the drop of the puck on Tuesday night, Joe Thornton will indeed make his return to San Jose against the Sharks.

On Monday, coach Andrew Brunette had Thornton working on the left side of Florida’s top line with Sasha Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe.

There was little doubt Thornton would come off the IR in time to face the Sharks — and one had to figure he will be in the starting lineup as he plays in his first game against his former team since leaving as a free agent following the 2019-20 season.

“It sounds like and looks like he is ready to go,” Brunette said. “He has been a Swiss Army knife, we have moved him around all over the place and he hasn’t had too many opportunities to play with the top guys. No better place to see if he can have some fun (Tuesday).”

Thornton wears No. 19 for the Panthers as he did for all those seasons with the Sharks — and he did not even have to ask for it.

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Mason Marchment, who is making his own homecoming tonight, made sure Thornton knew he was going to give up the number he wore with Florida in 2021 once ‘Jumbo Joe’ signed with the Panthers.

Thornton was one of Marchment’s favorite players with the Sharks as he hung out with the team as a kid under father Bryan’s watch and now the two are not only teammates but flying buddies on the Florida charters.

“I got to meet Jumbo and he was one of my favorite players growing up,” Marchment, who switched to No. 17, said Monday. “As soon as he came here, I called him and told him ‘hey, 19 is his.’ He deserves it. He is a legend for a reason and he deserves it.”

Thornton has been on IR since Florida returned from the extended All-Star break and has only played in 24 games thus far.

When Thornton signed with the Panthers, it was a boost to the team that knew he was chasing his first Stanley Cup in a Hall of Fame career — and wanted to do it with this group.

Thornton made it clear to the Panthers that he did not have to play in each and every game.

In fact, he seems completely cool with his time being managed the way it has.

“There is so much respect for him by the players in our room and he has earned that,” Brunette said. “The joy that he has is infectious and you can see guys grow around him. He has been such a nice addition to our group. …

“When you can scratch a Joe Thornton, you can scratch anyone. He has taken it upon himself to rely that the team is bigger than the individual and he comes to work every day. To see how much fun he has playing the game every day — maybe not getting the minutes he is used to — is pretty unique.”

That has made life easy on a rookie head coach, one who did not enjoy playing against Thornton during his playing days.

“He was a pain in the butt,” Brunette said with a laugh. “Literally.”

— Sergei Bobrovsky took an errant puck shot into the Florida bench off the face in the first period of the Panthers’ eventual 3-2 shootout loss to the Kings on Sunday night but was at practice on Monday and will start tonight against the Sharks.

Former Florida goalie James Reimer has missed the past few games for San Jose but is expected to start against the Panthers for the second time this season.

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS AT SAN JOSE SHARKS

PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS LINEUP

19 Joe Thornton // 16 Sasha Barkov // 23 Carter Verhaeghe

11 Jonathan Huberdeau // 9 Sam Bennett // 10 Anthony Duclair

17 Mason Marchment  // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 13 Sam Reinhart

77 Frank Vatrano // 55 Noel Acciari // 70 Patric Hornqvist

52 MacKenzie Weegar // 5 Aaron Ekblad

42 Gus Forsling // 7 Radko Gudas

40 Petteri Lindbohm // 62 Brandon Montour

72 Sergei Bobrovsky

30 Spencer Knight

Scratched: Lucas Carlsson, Maxim Mamin

Injured: Markus Nutivaara (LTIR), Ryan Lomberg (IR), Jonas Johansson (IR), Anton Lundell (LBI)

PROJECTED SAN JOSE SHARKS LINEUP

28 Timo Meier // 39 Logan Couture // 76 Jonathan Dahlen

94 Alexander Barabanov // 48 Tomas Hertl // 92 Rudolph Balcers

11 Andrew Cogliano // 13 Nick Bonino // 83 Matthew Nieto

42 Jonah Gadjovich // 54 Scott Reedy // 73 Noah Gregor

21 Jacob Middleton // 88 Brent Burns

24 Jaycob Megna // 65 Erik Karlsson

44 Marc-Edouard Vlasic // 53 Nicolas Meloche

47 James Reimer

33 Adin Hill

San Jose Sharks lineups courtesy DailyFaceoff.com

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