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Bruins, Thornton ready for tonight's return

The swelling continues to go down around his bruised right eye, although the eye remains bloodshot. Bruins captain Joe Thornton said he's sufficiently healed to suit up tonight against the Islanders in New York. Thornton, who suffered a fractured right cheekbone and a black eye from a fight with Rangers center Eric Lindros Jan. 19, skated for a third day yesterday and pronounced himself fit for duty. He'll wear a full cage, identical to what college players wear, probably for another week, and then plans to switch to a half-shield.

"Everything feels fine," he said. "I can see through the cage and it's all right. Every day the swelling is coming down more."

Thornton, who had surgery last Thursday to put a plate into his cheek, missed his third game Saturday, although he tried to talk coach Mike Sullivan into letting him play against Florida.

"I think if it was up to him, he probably would've played the last game," said Sullivan. "But everyone seemed to think it made the most sense to hold him out."

Thornton said he has felt virtually no pain since the initial fight, during which he also suffered a gash below his eye. Even the recovery from surgery caused him no discomfort. If he was concerned about anything, it was his vision, which wasn't quite right after the bout.

"You see guys like [former Bruin] Bryan Berard and things like that," said Thornton, referring to the eye injury Berard suffered that resulted in near-blindness in one eye. "Fortunately, everything was underneath the eye. At the start, I was seeing a little bit of double vision but it calmed down after an hour or two."

When deciding on face protection to wear for his return, Thornton said he followed the advice of longtime equipment manager Peter Henderson.

"With the [plastic] shield, you're going to fog it up all the time and I think it's a little tough to breathe in there," said Thornton.

When he skates into the corner for the first time tonight, he says he won't be thinking about the injury or the cage. It will just be business as usual.

"I'm not nervous," he said. "I wore one of those when I was 14 and I wasn't nervous then, so I'm not going to be nervous now."

As for how the cage allows him to see the puck, he said it really doesn't alter the perspective much, especially when the puck is at his feet.

"It's more or less feel down there anyway," he said. "It's not about sight down there, so I'm not too worried about it."

He's not concerned that anyone on the Islanders will take a run at him. It would be more of a concern if it were a wrist or ankle or some area of his body less obvious than his face.

"You don't see it too much in the regular season," said Thornton, referring to opponents pushing the envelope on what they can get away with. "That's more in the postseason."

Sullivan said Thornton wouldn't be out there if the Bruins didn't feel he was safe.

"It's going to prevent him from any incidental contact on the area," said Sullivan. "Obviously, to contain Joe, regardless of his condition, he's a big strong guy and teams play him in a physical manner so that will be something he gets every game and I'm sure he'll continue to get that." . . .

Forward Sandy McCarthy, recovering from a concussion suffered Jan. 12 against Buffalo, skated yesterday for the first time since the injury. He went out after practice, spending about 15 minutes on the ice. "I don't feel 100 percent normal yet," said McCarthy. "I'm just a little off. But you can't be discouraged. You have to take the positives." McCarthy saw a neurologist yesterday, having a baseline test done, and he expects to have that compared with a similar test he had in 1997 . . . Center Travis Green, who suffered a rib injury in the same game, skated before the team workout and is coming along . . . Forward Michal Grosek (concussion) still has symptoms, so he hasn't been able to work out . . . Defenseman Ian Moran, who is on the mend from a high ankle sprain, has yet to skate since suffering the injury Dec. 23. He hopes to get back on the ice at the beginning of next week.

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