DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department, and I'd like to welcome you to today's call. Today's guest is San Jose Sharks' center Joe Thornton. Thanks to Joe for taking the time today to answer your questions, and thanks to Scott Emmert of the Sharks' public relations department for arranging the call.
Yesterday Joe was named "Second Star" for the month of March after leading all players in scoring with 24 points in 14 games. His season total of 109 points leads the Sharks and ranks him second in the National Hockey League behind Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, who has 117.
Joe needs two assists to become only the third player in NHL history to post consecutive 90-assist seasons, the other two being Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
With 102 points the Sharks are tied with Dallas and trail Anaheim by four points in the race for top spot in the Pacific Division. They visit Anaheim tomorrow, host Calgary Thursday and finish the regular season at home against Vancouver Saturday.
Thanks to Joe for joining us today. We'll open it up for questions now.
[Q] Could you just address the impact that the acquisition of Bill Guerin and Craig Rivet have had on the team?
[JOE THORNTON] Well, obviously, we're pretty young in the back, so Rivet just brings us some more toughness back there. He's pretty rugged. He plays the power plays, the right-handed shot, which we needed, as well. So he fills so many voids that we didn't have before. He's a guy that's been there, done that, and he's going to be great going to the playoffs.
Obviously Billy winning the Cup I think in '95 or '96, he's a good, veteran guy that works really well with Patty Marleau, and he’s another right-handed shot. He's physical, he's big, he's strong and just two very, very valuable pickups that we definitely needed coming down the stretch here.
[Q] I'd like to ask another question. I've got to ask you, last season late you just went on an amazing rampage, and you've done it again this season. How do you explain the late season surges that you have?
[JOE THORNTON] I don't know, it's just -- obviously especially this year, playing with Milan Michalek, he's been playing great lately, and Cheech has been putting the puck in the back of the net. But I don't really know the rhyme or reason that it happens. But like you said, it happened last year and again this year, but I don't know the reason why.
[Q] Just wondering, if what way do you think you're a better player right now than you were last season at this time of the season in which you won the Hart Trophy?
[JOE THORNTON] Well, I think -- I'm having pretty much similar years. Individually I'd like to think I've gotten better each and every year. You know, that's a tough question to answer. I just feel good, I feel confident, and I feel good with my surroundings out here now. Just whoever I play with, I feel very comfortable with who I'm playing with.
[Q] Just one more question. In the last month or so Jonathan has also been a quite a tear. Do you feel like you got him going or he got you going, or do you think it was a bit of a combination?
[JOE THORNTON] It could have been a combination of both things, an also you can throw in Milan Michalek. He's playing great hockey, as well. He's brings so much speed to our line that is so valuable to us. I think we kind of miss Nils Ekman because we had so much speed with him.
But yeah, Cheech has been putting the puck in the back of the net for me, and it just makes my job a lot easier, that's for sure.
[Q] You got to play with Bill Guerin. I want to follow up on that. You got to play with him in Boston, and I wanted to know what influence he had on you maturing as a player and also a person off the ice, too.
[JOE THORNTON] Billy is just a great guy. Obviously I played with him a couple years there in Boston. He's a bubbly guy, a good guy to have in the locker room. He's a veteran guy. We never really played the same position.
I think you can just learn -- he plays that rugged style, but he's got -- he's such a nice goal scorer. But I think I definitely learned a lot as a player from him and as a person. It's good to have him here because we definitely have a young team and he can definitely look at some young guys and point out some pointers that he's seen in the past and help these young guys to become better players.
[Q] And just a follow-up question, what do you want to do to shut down the naysayers of you in the Playoffs and people saying you'll lose again in the Playoffs? What do you want to do? Is that motivating you this year?
[JOE THORNTON] I don't know, I don't really listen to any of that stuff. I think we definitely have a good team, that we can really go for the Stanley Cup this year, and I feel comfortable with this team and I have a lot of confidence in this team. Hockey is a team sport and it always will be, and I think it's a good shot. If we win the Cup, then I don't know if there will be any more of that.
[Q] What did you learn from last year's experience having that two game lead over Edmonton and seeing it disappear and then you guys disappear? What did you take from that and take into this upcoming post-season?
[JOE THORNTON] Well, the team is not done until they're done, until they've lost that fourth game. I think as a young team last year, we all learned together, and I think it just makes us better as a team as a whole.
But you can't take a team too lightly even though they're down 2-0 because the momentum can switch just like that in that triple overtime game that they beat us. Just never take your opponent too lightly, and we won't this year.
[Q] This is playing off a previous question, but do you feel a pressure just to have that like big bust-out Playoff run, both individually and as a team? Does that weigh on you at all?
[JOE THORNTON] Not at all, no, not at all.
[Q] And how do you then carry your -- and another question was the late season surge, so you're on one right now, you're enjoying one. How do you carry that into the post-season?
[JOE THORNTON] Just keep doing the same things, keep doing the same things in practice, and eventually it will spill over into games. Just play consistent. I think as a team we've been playing consistent, as for myself, individually just being consistent each and every night and working hard each and every night. So just keep on doing the little things that I've been doing and hopefully carry it over and hopefully it works in the Playoffs.