Sharks look to snap skid with sweep of Chicago

411059.jpg

Sharks look to snap skid with sweep of Chicago

March 14, 2011

SHARKS (39-22-8) vs.
CHICAGO (37-24-7)

Coverage begins at 4:30 P.M. on Versus

(AP) -- Antti Niemi has been a big reason why the San Jose Sharks have won all three meetings with the Chicago Blackhawks this season.

Niemi hopes to torment his former team once again Monday night when the Sharks look for a fifth straight road win while the Blackhawks try to avoid their first four-game skid in two seasons.

A hero in leading Chicago (37-24-8) to the Stanley Cup a year ago, Niemi has gone 17-3-3 with a 1.95 goals-against average while starting the Sharks' last 24 games. The GAA is the best of any goalie with at least 16 starts in that span.

Niemi is 3-0-0 with a 1.96 GAA in three starts against the Blackhawks. He made 26 saves in his return to the United Center in a 5-3 victory Dec. 30 in the last meeting between these teams.

RELATED: Antti Niemi career stats

The goalie has dropped shootouts in the last two games for San Jose (39-22-8), which fell 3-2 to the Rangers on Saturday. The Sharks remain ahead of the pack in the tightly bunched Pacific Division as they begin a two-game trip that ends Tuesday in Dallas.

REWIND: Sharks stifled in shootout loss to Rangers

"We're gonna have a couple tough games, Chicago and Dallas," coach Todd McLellan said. "We leave this one behind and let's get going forward."

Eight of the Sharks' last nine games have been decided by one goal. They also lost 5-4 to Vancouver on Thursday.

"We're at the point of the season now where a point isn't good enough," defenseman Dan Boyle said Saturday. "We had our chances, for sure. You never know if that point could cost us in the end. Hopefully it doesn't."

Boyle had two assists against the Rangers as he returned after missing six games with an upper-body injury.

San Jose winger Ben Eager will make his first return to the United Center since he was traded by Chicago to Atlanta in the offseason. Eager, who spent his previous two-plus seasons with the Blackhawks, was acquired by the Sharks on Jan. 18.

His former team is mired in a 0-1-2 stretch after Sunday's 4-3 overtime loss at Washington. The Blackhawks, who last lost four straight during a five-game skid March 13-20, 2009, were outshot 42-30.

REWIND: Knuble's goal lifts Caps over Blackhawks

"We'll take the point," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We weren't very good today. We were very generous in all the goals that we gave them and could've done a better job defending in those situations."

Chicago has won its last four at home, where Jonathan Toews has amassed eight points during a five-game run. Toews scored the tying goal late in regulation Sunday to give him 19 points in his last 12 games.

The Sharks have held Toews without a point in two games this season after the center amassed six in last year's sweep in the Western Conference finals.

Marian Hossa has 13 points in his last 10 games, but just one in two against San Jose this season.

The Blackhawks have outshot the Sharks twice in the first period of their three meetings, finishing even the other time. San Jose has been outshot in the opening period in its last four games.

"It says we have to start better, that's the negative, I guess," McLellan said. "But the will and the drive and the desire is there."

Report: Jim Tomsula interviews for Saints DL job

Report: Jim Tomsula interviews for Saints DL job

Former 49ers coach Jim Tomsula reportedly interviewed this week for the New Orleans Saints’ defensive line job.

Tomsula, 48, who was fired as head coach of the 49ers after a 5-11 record in 2015, spent last season out of the football. He interviewed with Saints coach Sean Payton to replace fired line coach Bill Johnson, the Alex Marvez of The Sporting News reported, citing two sources.

Tomsula was hired as head coach to replace Jim Harbaugh after the 49ers announced a “mutual parting” with Harbaugh following the team’s 8-8 season of 2014.

Tomsula was well-regarded as the organization’s defensive line coach from 2007 to ’14.

Santiago Casilla says he never received offer from Giants

Santiago Casilla says he never received offer from Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — Over the final month of his time with the Giants, it became clear that Santiago Casilla and the team would part ways. On Friday, Casilla confirmed that he never had the opportunity to return. 

On a conference call to announce a two-year deal with the Oakland A’s, Casilla said he “would have been happy to return to the Giants, but I never got an offer from them. I understood.”

Casilla said he had several opportunities to go elsewhere and close, mentioning the Milwaukee Brewers as one interested team. Casilla signed a two-year, $11 million deal with the A’s, who likely won’t need him to pitch in the ninth. The Brewers went on to bring in Neftali Feliz for one year and $5.35 million; he is expected to close. 

“I preferred to return to the Athletics because that’s where my career started,” Casilla said through interpreter Manolo Hernández Douen. “And I’m very excited.”

Casilla spent the first six years of his career with the A’s before crossing the bridge and becoming a key figure in three title runs. In seven seasons in San Francisco, he posted a 2.42 ERA and saved 123 games. Casilla had a 0.92 ERA in the postseason, but he was stripped of a prominent role in the weeks leading up to the 2016 playoffs. 

Casilla, 36, blew nine saves before being pulled from the ninth inning. He appeared just three times in the final 14 regular season games and just once in the playoffs. He did not take the mound in Game 4 of the NLDS, watching as five other relievers teamed up to give back a three-run lead. 

That moment stung Casilla, and it affected Bruce Bochy, too. The Giants struck quickly in December to bring Mark Melancon in as their new closer, but at the Winter Meetings, Bochy said he would welcome Casilla back in a setup role. 

“He’s a great team player (and) teammate,” Bochy said. “(I) certainly wouldn’t rule it out because he still has great stuff. And he had some hiccups there in that closing role, but I would take him anytime.”

As it turned out, that opportunity was never there for Casilla. The Giants didn’t make another move after the big deal with Melancon, and they’ll rely on younger arms to record most of the outs in the seventh and eighth. Casilla said he’s not bitter about the way it all ended. 

“I have left that in the past,” he said. “It’s a new year, it’s a new year. I have left this in the past.”