Thornton should thrive on skating room

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

If Joe Thornton slips and starts thinking of Turin, he catches himself.

"Going to the Olympics would be a dream, but I can't worry about that right now," the captain of the Boston Bruins said. "I'm thinking about the Bruins. We'll worry about (the Olympics)in February."

Thornton has played for Canada previously but not in the Olympics. There is no doubt he has the talent to do so, and for a change, he has been able to reap the full benefits of his skills. That's what many elite players are finding in the NHL with the clampdown on obstruction.

"You look at a guy like Joe in the past few years," said Travis Green, Thornton's teammate and former Maple Leaf. "Every shift you would swear there would be a penalty (whether it was called) when he got the puck down low and now it is hard to contain guys like that. You really have to play off them."

Thornton's career high in a season of 101 points came in 2002-03 -- and that was with the mauling the opposition often employed. Now, he should accomplish more.

"There is more open space and it is a much more exciting game for me to be in," Thornton said. "Any player who has any talent likes this style of game. I think the refs really do mean it and so far they have been calling everything in sight that they told us they were going to call."

A native of London who spent just two seasons in major junior with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds before graduating to the Bruins in 1997, Thornton was sporting a black left eye yesterday. That's courtesy of a puck that bounced off the glass during the Bruins' game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. But don't expect Thornton to wave the flag for visor supporters.

"I wore one over in Europe (when he played in Switzerland during the NHLlockout)," Thornton said. "It's personal and Ijust don't like it. It clouds up a little bit and a lot of water gets on it. For me, it is just a pain in the neck to have it on."


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