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With Sharks looming, Bruins lament Thornton trade

BOSTON -- It has been almost 12 years since the Boston Bruins dealt their captain, Joe Thornton, to the San Jose Sharks for three players.

One of those three, Marco Sturm, scored the overtime goal for the Bruins in the first outdoor hockey game at Fenway Park -- and that was the highlight of the deal for Boston.

Meanwhile, Thornton appears headed for the Hall of Fame -- and is still chugging along at the age of 38 as he and his Sharks visit TD Garden on Thursday night.

This will be Thornton's 16th game against his only former team. He has five goals and seven assists in the previous 15. More important, he hits town with a goal and five assists in eight games this season while helping linemate Logan Couture get off to the best start of his career.

Couture had a goal and an assist as the Sharks earned a 4-1 win over the Rangers in New York on Monday night. The 2-1-0 start to a five-game road trip has raised San Jose's record to 4-4-0 ahead of the game against the 3-3-1 Bruins.

"We've got to get some scoring, and we can't wait for Joe Thornton or Joe Pavelski or Brent Burns to do it every night," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "We've got to get other guys consistently bringing positive results to the rink every night. On the nights you're not bringing offense, make sure you're having a positive effect on the game. And that's the challenge."

Couture has seven goals, six in the past four games. He also has three assists, all in the past four games. A two-time 30-goal scorer who led the NHL with 10 goals and 30 points in the 2016 playoffs, the winger is well ahead of his previous scoring paces.

"Right now it just seems like the puck is following me around," Couture said. "Those are the days you enjoy coming to the rink and you know you're going to get some scoring chances."

The Bruins, who have been dealing with all kinds of injuries, were enjoying their stay at their home rink on Saturday, when they jumped to a 4-1 lead against the one-win Buffalo Sabres, only to cough up the lead and lose the game 5-4 in overtime.

While Adam McQuaid (broken leg) and Ryan Spooner (groin) are out long-term, the conditions of goaltender Tuukka Rask (concussion) and Kevan Miller (hand) may well have benefited from the long layoff between games.

Rask cleared NHL protocol and returned to practice Tuesday after missing two games, and Miller was back after missing one game. However, David Krejci, who went through warmups Saturday before sitting out a second straight game due to a back injury, has gone from day-to-day from week-to-week. He is listed as out at least through the weekend.

"We'll revisit it on Sunday or Monday," Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said Krejci.

As far as Rask and Miller, Cassidy said, "It's all positive things for both of those guys."

After going through an almost-full practice Tuesday, Rask, who has lost his last three starts to drop to 1-3-0 with an .882 save percentage, said, "They didn't want me to do contact today, whatever that means for a goalie (he was injured in a practice collision with rookie Anders Bjork). I stayed out of the last couple of drills and whatnot. But you can't go out there and try to be too careful.

"The drills we did were set up in a way that it's only shots and two-on-ones so the chances of being run over are slim. Tomorrow will be full tilt and we'll see."

After the Wednesday practice, Cassidy said, "Tuukka is continuing in the protocol and doing well, so tomorrow morning he'll get looked at. If it's all systems go, then we'll know tomorrow whether he gets cleared."

Rask could play Thursday, where he is likely to face a red-hot Martin Jones, the goalie who belonged to the Bruins for four days after a trade from Lon Angeles (for Milan Lucic) -- before they traded him away.

Jones is 4-0-0 with a 1.26 goals against average and a .957 save percentage since being pulled in a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 2 of the season. He stopped all 10 shots during six New York power plays Monday.

With Krejci out, David Backes moved from right wing back to center, his natural position, between speedy wingers David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk.

"You play center for so long, I don't think it ever really escapes you," Backes said.

The Bruins swept the two-game series from the Sharks last season, but San Jose has won two of its past three visits to TD Garden and three of its past five games in Boston.

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