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Florida Panthers Pregame: Joe Thornton says San Jose Sharks ‘like family’

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San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton makes a play against the Florida Panthers on February 17, 2020. Thornton returns to the SAP Center in San Jose tonight … as a member of the Panthers. — Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire

There is no way — none — that the San Jose Sharks do not honor Joe Thornton tonight during their game against the Florida Panthers.

Thornton, who will make his return to the SAP Center for the first time since leaving San Jose in 2020, says he does not expect anything.

When a player as important to their franchise as Thornton was to the Sharks, well, something special is coming.

As it should be.

“It is nice,” said Thornton, who is expected to be in the starting lineup alongside Sasha Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe tonight.

“Coming back here has brought back a lot of memories, had so many great times in the building. Super memories. It’s a good feeling. I saw so many of the guys yesterdays, the trainers … you play somewhere for 15 years and they become like family. It was great to see everyone.”

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Thornton will be activated off of the Injured Reserve list in time for the game after being on IR since the Panthers returned from their extended All-Star break.

His injury has not been specified and he has been practicing with Florida the past few weeks although he said he wasn’t sure he would be ready to play in this game.

“To be back in the lineup for this game is awesome,” he said. “The people here were so kind to me, we shared a lot of experiences together. For years, this was such a hard building to play in because of the energy they brought to us. It was electric. It’s going to be fun to play in front of them again.

“I’ll try to get through the first few shifts, settle down and play some hockey. I am sure it will be a little emotional being back. And that’s good. … I’m going to enjoy it.”

Florida coach Andrew Brunette said it was hard to tell how excited Thornton was for this game — “he’s always in such a great mood.’’

MORNING SKATE NOTEBOOK

With Thornton coming back into the lineup, Maxim Mamin — who has been playing since Anton Lundell got hurt last week — will be scratched.

Petteri Lindbohm will play his third consecutive game since playing his first with the Panthers last Thursday against Philadelphia. He has seven hits in the two games he has played.

Sergei Bobrovsky will start for the Panthers. To make room on the 23-man roster for Thornton, the Panthers placed goalie Jonas Johansson on IR after he left his conditioning start with the Charlotte Checkers in the second period.

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS AT SAN JOSE SHARKS

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