In these trying times for the Sharks, a long-term injury to Joe Thornton might rank toward the top of worst-case scenarios.
San Jose held its breath Sunday hoping that's not the case.
Late in the first period of what became a critical 3-1 win over the Canucks, Thornton suffered an apparent left leg injury when he collided awkwardly with Vancouver's Michael Chaput along the boards. Thornton immediately dropped to the ice in pain.
Unable to put weight on the leg, he labored to the Sharks bench with the support of his stick and stumbled to the dressing room, aided by trainers.
Thornton was ruled "questionable" to return to the game, per the Sharks, but he never did.
Addressing reporters afterward, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer couldn't speak to the severity of the injury.
He said an update would come Monday when the team returns to San Jose.
Thornton, 37, was able to leave the arena "under his own power and without crutches but with a clear limp," according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Any extended absence for Thornton, the Sharks' top-line center and fourth-leading scorer, will surely factor into the team's postseason outlook that's already been compromised by an injury to Logan Couture, whose 52 points rank slightly ahead of Thornton's 50.
"You can't replace him obviously," Patrick Marleau said. "It's going to give other guys a chance to step in and step up."
San Jose had already clinched a berth ahead of Sunday, but its once-iron clad grip on the Pacific Division is no more thanks to a brutal three-week stretch in which the Sharks lost eight of 10. Instead they may have to settle for a wild-card spot depending on how the final week of the season plays out.
Without Thornton, it wouldn't be easy.