SAN JOSE (CBS/AP) – San Jose  Sharks captain Joe Thornton is expected to play a potential elimination game in Game 5 of the Western Conference final despite leaving the previous game with an injury.

Thornton was hurt on a shoulder-to-shoulder check by Raffi Torres in the third period of a 4-2 loss to Vancouver on Sunday that put the Sharks in a 3-1 series hole. He did not return to the game and did not take part in an optional practice Monday before the team flew to Vancouver.

But coach Todd McLellan said he expects Thornton to play Tuesday night, even if he is not 100 percent. Thornton was not available to the media on Monday but told coach Todd McLellan he will be ready to play.

“When Joe Thornton comes to you and tells you he’s playing, he’s playing,” McLellan said. “That can happen in exhibition season, that can happen at … a charity game in the middle of the summer.”

Thornton leads the Sharks with 17 points this postseason and has also done a good job defensively when matched up against the opponent’s top line.

The Sharks face long odds to come back in this series after losing three of the first four games. Those odds would have become even more daunting if Thornton was unable to play.

“He’s a presence in the locker room,” defenseman Dan Boyle said. “Just the presence of having him around is something that we need. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. He’s going to be there. I know that.”

In other injury news, defenseman Jason Demers practiced for the first time this series and said he is ready to play if the coaches give him the chance. Demers missed the first four games with an undisclosed injury and was replaced by Kent Huskins, who hadn’t played since February.

Demers is an offensive defenseman who plays the point on the second power-play unit. The Sharks struggled on the power play in Game 4, failing to convert on five chances in the first 25 minutes of the game as they struggled to get set up in the offensive zone.

“You always want to be in the game, and you always want to help out your team,” Demers said. “It’s hard to see when we’re on the losing end, but I’m confident in the guys. If I’m in or I’m not in, I’m sure they’ll do good and pull out a win in Vancouver.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBSSan Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)


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