They've lost when they were expected to win and lost when they were expected to lose. Now, the San Jose Sharks are losing when people weren't sure.

And as always at playoff time, Joe Thornton is now the problem. This time, because he is hurt.

The Sharks held a sparse skate at their practice rink today. But as they tried to prepare physically for another National Hockey League playoff elimination game on Tuesday in Vancouver (6 p.m., CBC, Team 1040), what they really needed to work on was their minds.

Not only is the best team from the last 10 years not to win a Stanley Cup down 3-1 in the Western Conference final, but their best player is injured.

Knocked from Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Canucks by Raffi Torres' shoulder check, Thornton told Sharks coach Todd McLellan that he will play in Game 5.

"Jumbo will play," McLellan relayed to reporters. "When Joe Thornton comes to you and tells you he's playing, he's playing. I think it's important that he does play the game.

"There were a lot of questions out there as to whether Joe would be the right captain or not. We felt to have success he needed to be our captain. I think he learned a lot from Rob Blake and he has carried that torch on. I can't think of any times this season when I didn't feel good about him being our ultimate leader."

Thornton underwent treatment today and was not made available to media here

"There should be 19 others getting treatments as well," McLellan said. "There should be."

So, Thornton plays. But at what level?