Joe Thornton will play game No. 1000 tonight, but tomorrow night would’ve been better

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It’s almost too bad Joe Thornton will hit this historic benchmark tonight in New Jersey. Not to take anything away from the Prudential Center or the streaking Devils (winners of three straight) — it’s just that, tomorrow night, the Sharks will take on the Bruins in Boston.

Now that would’ve been a storyline.

It’s been almost six full years since the blockbuster deal that sent Thornton to San Jose in exchange for Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau. The deal still stands as one of the most remarkable in NHL history — that year, Thornton became the only player in league history to win the Hart and Art Ross trophies while playing for two different teams in the same season.

In short, Boston traded away the league’s most valuable player…for three okay players.

Looking back on Thornton’s time in Boston, it makes you wonder if it could’ve gone differently:

— The season after losing their leading goalscorer (Bill Guerin) starting goalie (Byron Dafoe) and a good defenseman (Kyle McLaren), the Bruins made the 23-year-old Thornton team captain. This despite the presence of veterans like Glen Murray (an original Bruins pick that played five season with the team), Don Sweeney (third all-time in games played) and Rob Zamuner (who had been the captain in Tampa).

— That year, Jumbo had 101 points in 77 games.

— The coach that made him captain, Robbie Ftorek, was fired.

— Speaking of coaches, Thornton had five in seven years: Pat Burns, Mike Keenan, Ftorek, Mike O’Connell and Mike Sullivan.

— Thornton took major abuse for Boston’s lack of playoff success. But how about considering the goalies that started playoff games for Boston during that time: Dafoe, Jeff Hackett, Steve Shields and Andrew Raycroft.

The playoff stigma followed Thornton to San Jose, but even that has its flaws. For all of Thornton’s supposed choking, he’s been to back-to-back Western Conference finals and scored 29 points in his last 33 postseason games. If other players do that, they’re considered pretty solid playoff performers.

I guess the problem is that Joe Thornton isn’t other players. He’s unique, polarizing. He’s either Jumbo Joe or No-Show Joe — and after 1000 games in the National Hockey League, there’s still debate about which nickname is more apt.

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Leafs’ Marleau becomes 18th NHL player to reach 1,500-game milestone

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Patrick Marleau’s three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs will end two months before his 41st birthday, a summer when many believe his NHL career will come to an end.

But as he celebrated game No. 1,500 Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the veteran forward was talking about reaching another kind of milestone.

“I’m going to keep going as long as I can,” he said Wednesday morning via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “I don’t know if my wife’s ready to have me at home full-time yet. If I feel good and still think I can contribute then I’ll keep it going.”

Marleau is the 18th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500 game mark. Should he stay healthy and play the entire 82-game slate or close to that, he’ll enter the 2018-19 season 11th all-time in that category. Gordie Howe holds the record with 1,767 games played.

Health has helped the 38-year-old Marleau reach the mark in his 20th NHL season. He hasn’t missed a regular game since the 2008-09 season and hasn’t played fewer than 74 games in a full season in his entire career.

Marleau has gone from being the youngest player in the league to the sixth-oldest in the span of 20 years and considering his history of good health, better fitness regiments of players and treatment by training staffs, challenging Howe may not be a crazy idea.

Of course, that is unless Jaromir Jagr sticks around. If that happens then Marleau would likely have to settle for No. 2.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Blues

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This week’s edition of NBCSN’s Rivalry Night will feature a central division clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

It’s still early days, but the two sides are battling atop the Central, with the Blackhawks powered by great starts from a number of players including Brandon Saad and Ryan Hartman. The Blues, meanwhile, are looking to halt a two-game skid after winning their first four games of the season. The game also features the return of NHL on NBC analyst Ed Olczyk to the booth.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Blues get Alexander Steen back against Blackhawks

Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk’s ‘best medicine’

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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