Sharks notebook: Niemi getting comfortable


Sharks notebook: Niemi getting comfortable



Although goalie Antti Niemi didnt have to stand on his head, he did have to make a few very tough saves among his 26 in San Joses 2-0 win over Boston on Saturday afternoon.

RECAP: Niemi skunks Bruins, Sharks 2-0 on road trip
Antero Niittymaki was unable to dress due to re-tweaking a reported groin injury, so it was Niemi making his eighth straight start. He stopped David Krejci with a nice pad save late in the second period to preserve the Sharks lead, and then in the third was able to keep his eye on the puck through traffic on Patrice Bergerons bid for the top corner.NEWS: Sharks' Niittymaki tweaks groin injury in practice
Todd McLellan said that Niemi is fully acclimated to his new surroundings after signing as a free agent out of Chicago over the summer, and it shows. Furthermore, by being the only viable option with Niittymaki hurt again, it helps his preparation.He is now a Shark, said McLellan. Hes fit in very well, he feels comfortable, he knows the guys, and he knows how everybody is going to react in certain situations.He also knows hes playing. With the injuries that we have to the goaltending group in our organization, he knows that hes going to put the pads on and play. He can be comfortable with that, and the rest at the All-Star break I think helped him.Thorntons returnIts several years removed since he left town, but Sharks captain Joe Thornton is always glad to come back to the place in which he called home for the first eight-plus seasons of his career. Saturday marked his third game at the TD Garden since he was traded to San Jose on Dec. 1, 2005.I really enjoyed my time here and I still have a lot of family and friends still here, and I always like coming back. But, Im a Shark, and I like being out there, said Thornton.He doesnt put any added value on the fact that it was Boston on the losing end against his current club.Its just a win, he deadpanned. Maybe the first time I was here I wanted to win that first one, but now its just like any other road game.Thornton could have ended up as one of the goats of the game after he was sent to the box for tripping Adam McQuaid at 10:10 of the third period, but the Sharks killed the penalty and kept their 1-0 lead.Too much chirping?There was one particularly odd call in the second period that went against San Jose. With the Sharks controlling the puck in the offensive zone, the referees suddenly blew the play dead and called a bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct at 10:03.Apparently, someone from the bench was using some, lets say, salty language in the direction of the officials.As anyone who watched HBOs 247 would know, Theres a lot of f-bombs out there, said Dan Boyle. I dont know who said it, but usually you need a little bit more than that to earn a penalty.Boyle added he didnt know who said it, and when McLellan was asked about it, said, it wasnt the head coach.The Sharks killed off the penalty, which was served by Devin Setoguchi.Scoring streaks intactDespite scoring just two goals, a pair of Sharks kept their scoring streaks going. Setoguchis empty-net goal, on a pretty tough angle from the far boards by the faceoff dot, gives him at least a point in five straight games (4g, 3a). Ryane Clowe, who assisted on both goals, also increased his point-scoring streak to five games (3g, 4a).

Report: Shanahan 'almost certain' to accept 49ers' offer

Report: Shanahan 'almost certain' to accept 49ers' offer

Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is reportedly “almost certain” to accept the 49ers’ offer to become head coach.

Shanahan is the lone remaining candidate among the six individuals who interviewed with 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe. The 49ers plan for a second interview with Shanahan and a job offer, a source told Shanahan is expected to accept the 49ers’ offer, reports Michael Silver of the NFL Network, citing sources familiar with both parties.

The 49ers continued to work Tuesday evening on the process of narrowing down the general manager choices, a source said. Shanahan is expected to play a role in the select the team’s next GM, sources said.

On Tuesday, Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable and Seahawks co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner removed their names from consideration for the vacant coach and general manager positions. The 49ers fired Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke after the 49ers' 2-14 season.

One source said Cable and Kirchner believed the 49ers were using them as leverage to hire Shanahan. Cable interviewed with 49ers co-chair Denise DeBartolo York over the phone on Tuesday, NFL Network reported.

The 49ers are allowed to interview Shanahan for a second time after the Falcons’ NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The 49ers are prohibited from hiring or making a formal contract offer to Shanahan until the Falcons' season has concluded.

The top remaining candidates for the general manager job are believed to be Green Bay executives Brian Gutekunst and Eliot Wolf, Arizona's Terry McDonough and Minnesota's George Paton.

Wilcox embracing challenge, will change the way Cal looks on field


Wilcox embracing challenge, will change the way Cal looks on field

BERKELEY — With more than a half-century without a Rose Bowl berth, tougher academic standards than most Pac-12 schools and lackluster fan support in a pro-sports focused market, there are plenty of hurdles for a football coach at California.

Coach Justin Wilcox took the job for the Golden Bears because he embraces those obstacles and he wants players who feel the same way as he seeks to rebuild a program that has one winning record in the past five years and no conference championships since 1958.

"When you come here, there are challenges," Wilcox said at his introductory news conference Tuesday. "You don't come here and go through school and just go through the motions. You'll be challenged in the classroom, challenged on the football field and learn to interact in a dynamic society. I believe in that and that helps guys grow."

Wilcox faces many hurdles in his new job replacing the recently fired Sonny Dykes less than three weeks before national signing day. He has to put together a coaching staff, evaluate the players already on campus and try to keep together, and even add to, a recruiting class that committed to a different staff.

Athletic director Mike Williams fired Dykes after four seasons on Jan. 8 because he wanted a coach committed to Cal instead of flirting with other jobs and needed someone who could excite a fan base that often stayed away from Memorial Stadium in recent years as the Bears teamed porous defenses with sometimes exciting offenses while posting a 19-30 record.

Williams had five finalists for the job but chose a former Cal assistant with a defensive background and familiarity with the Pac-12 as an assistant for seven years at three schools in the conference.

"He truly gets this place, he truly gets coaching in the West," Williams said. "He came in and was very organized and thoughtful. He knew what he wanted to do and who he wanted to hire. ... It's a special place and I think he'll treat it as a special place."

While Dykes flirted with job openings at Houston and Baylor this past offseason in part because of his concern about increased academic standards for recruits, the Bears hope Wilcox is someone who wants to stick around after more than a decade of being on a self-described "windy" path as a top defensive coach.

The former Oregon defensive back began his coaching career in 2001 as a graduate assistant at Boise State. He spent three years as linebackers coach under Jeff Tedford at Cal from 2003-05 when the Bears nearly ended their Rose Bowl drought during a 10-win season with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback in 2004.

Wilcox has spent the past 11 years as a defensive coordinator with stops at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington, Southern California and finally Wisconsin, where he helped the Badgers field a top 10 defense and win the Cotton Bowl.

Wilcox has worked and played for many successful coaches, including Tedford, Chris Petersen, Dan Hawkins, Mike Bellotti, and Paul Chryst.

"I've been extremely fortunate to work for and with people I learned so much from," he said. "Each step along the way, I've seen it done a lot of different ways. I'm not trying to be any of those people. I always try to take pieces and make it my own."

Wilcox has begun putting together his staff, having hired former Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin as offensive coordinator and longtime Oregon offensive line coach Steve Greatwood to fill that role on the Bears.

The Bears will look very different under Wilcox than Dykes. Wilcox said he will recruit tight ends as Cal moves from the spread "Bear Raid" offense that relied on four receivers almost exclusively to a more balanced offense with tight ends and more power concepts.

While he will delegate most of the offensive responsibilities to Baldwin, Wilcox said he will be more involved on defense where he wants to find players who can fit into his base 3-4 system.

Cal ranked 125th in total defense, 127th in scoring defense and 122nd in yards per play out of 128 FBS teams last season on the way to a 5-7 record.

"Every second is critical right now," Wilcox said. "I will not sacrifice the long-term good of the program for what everyone wants which is certainty. Things will happen quickly. I understand the recruits have some anxiety about the situation and there's emotions involved. That's totally understandable. I'd feel the same way."